Pakistan has decided to block all television and radio channels that broadcast content from its regional nemesis and neighbor India, a testament to the ongoing tension between the nuclear armed countries that has prompted media tit-for-tat bans, reports Reuters.
Also prohibited is the sale of popular direct-to-home satellite devices in Pakistani homes receiving signals directly from India, adds the news outlet, noting that the most recent measure imposed by Pakistan follows “calls in India for a ban on Pakistani actors and actresses in the country’s giant Bollywood film industry.”
In response, Pakistani movie theaters reportedly banned Bollywood films and imposed bans on Indian channels as the rhetoric against Pakistani actors in Bollywood intensified.
“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,” points out Reuters, adding, “Pakistani cable operators fear the severing of cultural ties between the neighbors will hurt profits as some viewers have already threatened to stop paying subscriptions.”
Border clashes between Pakistan and India in the disputed and Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir have intensified in recent months, particularly after the Indian military began to crack down in July on separatists in Indian-held Kashmir who favor independence or a merger with Pakistan, following the killing of a young commander of a terrorist Muslim group.
Despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement, troops from the two nations have exchanged fire over the Line of Control (LoC), a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier that divides the respective regions of Kashmir controlled by each country.
Reuters reports, “The blanket [media] ban drew immediate criticism from viewers and cable operators in Pakistan, a nation of 190 million people where Indian soap operas and Bollywood’s elaborate song-and-dance sequences are wildly popular.”
Muhammad Tahir, spokesman for the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), told Reuters that the complete ban will start on Friday.
The spokesman explained that the measure would overrule a 2006 edict by former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that allowed Indian TV channels to proliferate.
“Pakistan was created as a home for the subcontinent’s Muslims at the end of British colonial rule in 1947,” Reuters points out. “Though the partition was bloody, and the neighbors have fought three wars since, two of them over mostly Muslim Kashmir, their people share numerous cultural links.”
India-Pakistan relations worsened on September 18, when Pakistan allegedly backed terrorists who carried out an attack in Indian-held Kashmir, killing at least 18 Indian soldiers, an accusation denied by Islamabad.
Nevertheless, India launched “surgical strikes” in retaliation on September 29 against four camps in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, claiming to have killed 38 jihadists.
Islamabad maintains that, instead, Indian forces targeted Pakistani troops, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. Clashes between the two nations continue.
The Muslim nation’s Indian media ban does not sit well with some segments of its population.
“My wife is in grief ever since the ban has come into effect,” Saleem Ahmed, 55, an art gallery curator in Karachi, told Reuters.
Rubina Jan Muhammad, a 30-year-old maid, asked, “What entertainment do we have apart from watching Indian dramas?”
“We cannot go out of our homes, our males family members don’t like us going out apart from for work,” she added.
So far China, which also has competing claims to the Kashmir region, has stayed out of the dispute between neighbors India and Pakistan.
While China maintains a relationship with India, analysts suggest that China has closer military and economic ties to Pakistan.
This week, India accused Pakistan-linked protesters of terrorist activities and waving Chinese flags to foment unrest in Indian-held Kashmir.
China’s autonomous region and largest province of Xinjiang, home of the largest concentration of the Muslim Uighur minority in the country, borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The United Nations Security Council, led by Russia during October, has decided to ignore the Pakistan-India dispute.