ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s media regulation authority said Thursday it was imposing a blanket ban on Bollywood films and other Indian content on its television networks and radio stations amid increasing tension between the two nuclear-armed rivals on the issue of the disputed region of Kashmir.
The ban will be enforced from Friday and any TV and radio station found violating it will be shut down, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, or PEMRA, said in a statement.
Indian movies are popular in Pakistan and Pakistani musicians and actors are extensively used and are well paid by Bollywood.
PEMRA gave no reason for the move, but two government officials said the step was taken following reports that some Indian filmmakers were refusing to use Pakistani actors in movies. They said some Indian cinema owners also stopped screening films with Pakistani casts. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
India termed the move as “unfortunate.”
“It shows lack of self-confidence on Pakistan’s part. It is an unfortunate development,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman at Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters in New Delhi. He said there was no “blanket ban” on Pakistani artists performing in India. He added, however, that “in view of the prevailing atmosphere and taking into account security considerations as well and sentiments of local organizers, we will do so in a case to case basis,” in an apparent reference to a demand for banning artists from Pakistan in the wake of an attack in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir last month which killed 18 Indian soldiers.
Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, and the media on both sides appears to have become the latest battleground. Some Pakistani cinemas have vowed to stop showing Indian films in response to reports that Indian directors are refusing to hire actors from Pakistan.
The two government officials said certain parts of the Indian film industry had been asking Pakistani actors and singers to leave India since last month’s attack.
They said Indian media had also criticized Pakistan following the attacks. Pakistani authorities say Indian forces have been carrying out human rights violations in the area for months.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.
The Bollywood ban means an end to a law introduced by former President Pervez Musharraf which permitted the screening of a daily maximum of 86 minutes of Indian content in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said earlier it had lodged a strong protest with New Delhi over the latest ceasefire violation in Kashmir that killed one Pakistani civilian and wounded another 12.
The ministry said it had summoned a senior Indian diplomat and demanded an investigation into Wednesday’s firing by Indian troops along the Line of Control.
It said Pakistan asked India to “maintain peace and stability” in Kashmir. Pakistan returned fire in the incident.
Associated Press Writer Ashok Sharma contributed to this story from New Delhi, India.
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