Senate committee over rules CII to decide the fate of “Zindagi Tamasha”

In what can only be described as "bold" Senate committee on Human Rights has stopped the Council of Islamic Ideology from reviewing Sarmad Khoost's film, "Zindagi Tamasha". HR committee headed by Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar has expressed disappointment that despite being cleared twice by the censor boards, the movie is still not being released for cinema houses. How religious lobbies lead by Khadim Hussain Rizvi's TLP will react remains to be seen..

Zindagi Tamasha

Council of Islamic Ideology has – in what can be considered an important turn of events – announced to follow the decision of the senate on the review of movie ‘Zindagi Tamasha’. CII said that they won’t resist the decision of the senate stopping it from reviewing the movie.

“It has come to our knowledge that the Senate Function Committee on Human Rights has bared us from reviewing the film. We have no objection over this decision” said Qibla Ayaz, the CII chairman.

“In case the committee wants us to play a role in deciding the fate of the film Zindagi Tamasha, we will gladly offer our assistance. But we won’t object if they don’t take us into the loop. Earlier on we were told to review the film but we were yet to do it,” he added further.

The decision was taken during the meeting of the Senate Function Committee on Human Rights to discuss the movie. PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar received briefings from officials of central and provincial censor board members.

Read more: Hamza Ali Abbasi slams ‘intolerance’ blocking release of Zindagi Tamasha

Following the meeting, Khokhar said the committee has barred the CII to review the movie and has demanded a copy of Zindagi Tamasha of the movie from the Central Board of Film Censors for screening.

“A screening of the film will be arranged on March 16. The panel will decide if the film needs to be sent to the CII for approval. If we do not find the film objectionable, orders will be given for the film’s immediate release,” Khokhar said.

He said that the advisory body can only review cases when asked by the parliament. No ministry has the authority to refer the cases to the body on its own.

The law defines this in clear terms,” he said. “Going by the details provided in the in-camera briefing, there appears to be nothing objectionable in the film,” he said while talking to the local media outlet. Khokhar said that the committee will “not come under anyone’s pressure” and that the “parliament will exercise its authority”.

Read more: Hamza Ali Abbasi prays for Feroze Khan

Zindagi Tamasha: Why Controversy?

The release of Zindagi Tamasha, scheduled to be released in cinemas across Pakistan for January 24, was delayed after religious political parties, particularly Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan(TLP), condemned the movie for humiliating clerics and values of Islam. However producers – Irfan Khoosat, Kanwal Khoosat and Sarmad Sultan Khoosat – deny these impressions and most critics tend to agree with them.

Starring Arif Hassan, Ali Kureshi, Samiya Mumtaz                          and Eman Suleman this film has become controversial because of the scene of a devout looking Muslim dancing and then his video goes viral. Religious parties do not object to a man dancing; they are upset because the character that dances is otherwise a bearded modest looking man -and they find this a dangerous characterisation. An argument can be build that producers have actually tried exposing the religious lobbies that are now protesting against the movie. So in other words, this art product and reactions around it reveal deep societal divisions of Pakistan.

Zindagi Tamasha had its world premier at the prestigious Busan International Film Festival last year (2019) where it was awarded the top fiction prize. As mentioned above, it was to have hit Pakistan’s screens on 24 January, and ahead of that date a trailer for the film was released showing a bearded man who is a singer of naat (religious hymns in praise of the Prophet of Islam)

But despite being cleared by the country’s main censor board as well as provincial boards, the film is now on hold.

What is TLP’s argument? 

Few days ago, Sarmad Salman Khoost published an open letter to Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, saying he was being inundated with complaints and threatening calls and was considering not releasing the film.

TLP then called for mass rallies across the country to protest at the planned release of the film. “The characterisation of the naat-reader in the film is such that it can cause discomfort to the public and might lead them to deviate from Islam and Prophet (Muhammad),” TLP said in a statement.

“Thus this movie must not be released as it could otherwise be a grave test of the Muslims of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Firdous Ashiq Awan, adviser to the prime minister on Information and Broadcasting, then said on Twitter that the producer of the film had been told to delay the release until the film censor board consulted with the Islamic Ideological Council, an advisory body which is influential but has no binding authority.

After this announcement, the TLP had cancelled its call for a nationwide protest. The TLP is the political arm of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) movement which has previously gathered huge crowds to protest over blasphemy issues.

Led by Khadim Hussain Rizvi, it came to prominence for its opposition to the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman who killed the governor of Punjab Salman Taseer in 2011 because he spoke out against the blasphemy laws.

It remains to be seen how TLP and other ultra-religious groups are going to react to the intervention by Senate Human Right Committee lead by Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar.

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