After a ban on the feature film Maalik, Pakistan government has now banned two more documentary films: Among the Believers and Besieged In Quetta
Among the Believers is a hard-hitting documentary by Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s. The film has been screened in more than 20 countries and has already bagged 12 awards. The documentary focuses on the Lal Masjid situation and apart from following Maulana Abdul Aziz and his network for five years it also contains those never-shared-before stories of people who stood up against extremist ideology.
In a notification issued by the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC), it stated that “the [production] contains dialogues which project the negative image of Pakistan in the context of the ongoing fight against extremism and terrorism.”
In a press release issued on Friday, Among the Believers director Mohammad Ali Naqvi said that it is worrying that the film has been termed unfit for release in Pakistan. “It is a deeply worrying trend. After being screened in over 20 countries and winning 12 awards, we are shocked that Among the Believers has been banned from screening in its own country,” said Naqvi.
Another film recently axed by the CBFC in Pakistan is Besieged In Quetta – a documentary about the plight of the Hazara community of Quetta.
“It’s a very straightforward documentary based on interviews of people who have lost their loved ones to terrorism in Quetta in the last 15 years” says director Asef Ali Muhammed, who himself belongs to the Hazara community. “It’s beyond my understanding why we can’t reflect the reality of today’s Pakistan through the medium of a documentary”.
Among the Believers and Besieged in Quetta were to be screened at FACE Film Festival in Islamabad Foundation of Arts, Culture and Education (FACE).
The ban on movie Maalik, which had already been playing in cinemas, was declared “uncertified for the whole of Pakistan” by the ministry of Information this week. The film is about endemic corruption in Pakistan’s judiciary, law enforcement and political class.
Maalik tells the story of a former special services commando hired to protect a corrupt feudal lord who has risen to become chief minister. The chief minister character (called saaeen – the Sindhi word to indicate a person of influence) is somewhat similar to the present chief minister of Sindh province, including being of the same ethnicity. “The film had been banned because it shows a former chief minister as a man of corruption and opulence”, an unnamed ministry official told Express Tribune.
Ashir Azeem, director of film Maalik, said that politicians were concerned with their image internationally and trying to censor anything that cast them in bad light. “Authorities in Pakistan are very concerned with how they are perceived, especially abroad,” Azeem said.
Maalik distributor Mirza Saad Baig said this is the first time a film has been directly banned by the government. “Previously movies were banned by censor boards only. This is a very tricky situation. It is up to the producers to decide what to do next,” he said.