On 6 September 2016 the Sindh High Court ruled the Pakistan federal government’s ban on movie ‘Maalik’ illegal and cleared it for screening in the country, reported newspaper Dawn 6 September 2016.
The film’s director Asher Azeem celebrated on Twitter, saying: “We waited patiently [and] we did not release the film illegally. We suffered, but kept faith, and today we are vindicated.”
The movie came out in Pakistan on 9 September 2016, quickly after the court’s decision.
“I don’t have an option. I have to release it as soon as possible because they are probably going to challenge the decision again,” Azeem told The Express Tribune on 7 September 2016. “I have to get the film out before the fiasco starts again.”
The recent Sindh court ruling stated that the withdrawal of the film’s certification was in violation of the law, and that both the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairman, Mobashir Hassan, and the federal secretary at the ministry acted only on the filed complaints without verification and without the legal right of hearing from the filmmakers, reported The International News on 7 September 2016.
Days after the Sindh ruling, the Lahore High Court dismissed an application for the temporary permission to screen the film, despite the Sindh court ruling, stating that audiences would have to wait until its ruling on the case. The court had reserved its verdict on the case on 2 June 2016, reported Dawn on 9 September 2016.
Long, hard road for filmmakers
Azeem and producers of the movie have been facing hurdles ever since the release of the movie in April 2016. After three weeks of being on screen, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information banned the movie and de-certified it after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) compiled a report of complaints it had received. The film was allegedly banned because it portrayed politicians in a negative light.
Further, in August 2016, the country’s Ministry of Commerce banned the export of the movie to block it from at least being screened internationally.
Court overruled censor board in India
A court stepping in on controversial censorship decisions has also recently happened in neighboring India.
In June 2016, India’s CBFC called for 94 cuts to movie ‘Udta Punjab’ since it deemed the movie put the country, the people and the state in a negative light. However, the Bombay High Court stepped in with a “landmark ruling”, allowing the film to be certified and screened with only one cut.
The court also stated that the CBFC’s job was to certify films, rather than censor them, advising the board it just “not act like a grandmother” in its work.
» Dawn – 9 September 2016:
LHC dismissed pleas for Maalik’s screening
» The Express Tribune – 7 September 2016:
‘Maalik’ will hit Pakistani theatres, come Friday
» The International News – 7 September 2016:
SHC clears ‘Maalik’ for screening
» Dawn – 6 September 2016:
‘Maalik’ cleared for screening after SHC declares ban on film illegal
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» 15 August 2016: Pakistan: Government bans film at home and abroad
» 16 June 2016: India: Film survives censor board controversy after court ruling
» 3 May 2016: Pakistan: Action movie banned by Ministry of Information