Pakistan has banned all Indian content from its airwaves

Indian soap ‘Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar’ aired on Pakistani television.
Indian soap ‘Itna Karo Na Mujhe Pyaar’ aired on Pakistani television.
Image: Express Entertainment
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Amid rising tensions over Pakistani artists working in Bollywood, Pakistan has decided to fire back.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Oct. 19 imposed a complete ban on the airing of Indian content in the country, according to local daily The Express Tribune. At the regulatory authority’s 120th meeting in Islamabad, chairman Absar Alam directed all satellite television channels and radio stations to abide by the blanket ban, which goes into effect at 3pm local time on Oct. 21.

“Licenses of TV channels and radio stations that go against the ban will be cancelled without any show-cause notice,” Pemra said in a statement (link in Urdu).

Pemra rules dictate that only 10% of airtime can be used to broadcast foreign content in Pakistan. In September, the group announced a crackdown on illegal airing of foreign content that it warned could result in hefty fines for some broadcasters. And as of this week, only 6% of airtime can be used for content originating in India. That means less than two hours each day are available to Indian serials.

The two countries’ tumultuous relationship, which dates back to the 1947 partition of India that resulted in the creation of Pakistan, has been deteriorating rapidly since 17 Indian soldiers were killed in a Sept. 18 terror attack on an Indian army base in Uri, a town in war-torn Kashmir. India responded late last month with its own surgical strikes. The two countries officially suspended peace talks in April, four months after an attack on an Indian air base in Pathankot, Punjab, which the Indian government blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Movies on both sides of the border have also been hit by souring relations. On Sept. 29, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) passed a resolution barring Pakistani actors and technicians from working in the country “until normalcy returns.” Pakistan retaliated by banning the release of all Indian films for the first time since 2008. (That ban was instituted after the 1965 war, and lasted more than 40 years.) The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India’s reaction to the latest ban has been to stop the release of films featuring Pakistani actors in four states—Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Gujarat.

The Hindi film industry has even been under pressure to oust Pakistani actors and singers outright. In September, Hindu nationalist party Shiv Sena’s local arm in Maharashtra gave actors Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan (no relation) 48 hours to leave the country. Fawad, who has previously featured in Khoobsurat and Kapoor & Sons, stars in director Karan Johar’s upcoming film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (though in the wake of the controversy, Johar has vowed not to work with Pakistani talent in the future). Mahira had been set to make her Bollywood debut in Raees. 

Indian actors have had mixed reactions to the ban. Priyanka Chopra said actors are being unfairly targeted, while Ajay Devgn supports it as a show of solidarity with Indian soldiers. Salman Khan noted the importance of differentiating between foreign workers and terrorists.