Pakistan to Block Indian Content on TV, Radio as Tension Simmers

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Pakistan plans to rename a university centre for physicist Abdus Salam, its first Nobel laureate, after more than 30 years of all but disowning his achievements, as a member of a minority sect barred from identifying itself as Muslim.

By Syed Raza Hassan

KARACHI, Pakistan, Oct 20 – Pakistan will ban all Indian content on television and radio channels from Friday, its media regulator said, stepping up media tit-for-tat bans that followed a spike in tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Tension between the arch-rivals has been high since an Indian security force crackdown on protests in Indian-controlled Kashmir began in July, following the killing of a young Muslim separatist leader by security forces.

Relations worsened in September, when militants attacked an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir and killed 18 soldiers, a raid New Delhi blamed on Pakistan.

Islamabad denied involvement but the diplomatic fallout, and New Delhi’s efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally, prompted calls in India for a ban on Pakistani actors and actresses in the country’s giant Bollywood film industry.

Pakistani cinemas responded by banning Bollywood films and as the rhetoric against Pakistani actors in Bollywood surged, Islamabad has responded by enforcing bans on Indian channels popular in Pakistan.

The complete ban will start on Friday at 3 p.m. (1000 GMT), Muhammad Tahir, the spokesman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), told Reuters.

The measure goes further than the regulator’s crackdown on India media announced this month, when it vowed to enforce an existing law that allow channels to air Indian content for just 86 minutes each day.

The law was often flouted by entertainment channels and cable operators airing Indian films and soap operas wildly popular in Pakistan. The sale of Indian direct-to-home service is also forbidden, yet common, in Pakistan.

Tahir said the latest measure would override a 2006 decree by former 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.

Though the partition was bloody, and the neighbours have fought three wars since, two of them over mostly Muslim Kashmir, their people share numerous cultural links.

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