Pakistan has banned cinemas nationwide from screening an Indian blockbuster movie “Raees” starring famous Pakistani actress Mahira Khan, a censor official said on Feb. 7, the latest media clampdown after last year’s spike in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The movie has been highly anticipated in Pakistan, a nation of 190 million people where Bollywood’s elaborate song-and-dance sequences are wildly popular, as it marks the debut of the Pakistani actress alongside Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
“Yes, the censor certificate has not been issued to the film ‘Raees’ for having inappropriate content,” Mubashir Husain, the chairman of Pakistan’s panel of film censors, told Reuters.
Asked why the film was banned, Hussain declined to elaborate, referring instead to newspaper reports.
Pakistan’s English-language daily, Dawn, reported that the film’s “content undermines Islam, and a specific religious sect, (while also) portraying Muslims as criminals, wanted persons and terrorists”.
Despite being bitter foes, Pakistan and India have deep cultural similarities dating back to before their separation at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Tension spiked after Indian security forces launched a crackdown on protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir last July, following the killing of a young Muslim separatist leader by security forces.
Relations worsened in September, when militants attacked an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir and killed 18 soldiers, a raid India blamed on Pakistan.
Islamabad denied involvement, but the diplomatic fallout and New Delhi’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally prompted calls in India for a ban on Pakistani actors and actresses in the country’s giant Bollywood film industry.
Pakistani cinemas stopped screening Indian films for 11 weeks from last September, and government curbs still prevent cable providers from broadcasting Indian television channels.