Abdul Hadi

Generally, cinemas are considered the most common source of entertainment. As in other parts of the country, people across Balochistan also used to watch movies in Pashto cinemas all over the capital city.

There were seven Pashto cinemas in Quetta recently, but the number has decreased to just one now. Deteriorating security situation, terror attacks and sectarian attacks have razed the cinema business to negligible size.

Muhammad Iqbal, an employee at a Pashto cinema, said, “We had to close the entrance of cinema house within half an hour after opening it for the public as seats were always booked within 30 minutes four decades ago.”

terror attacks on public spaces have reduced the number of moviegoers in Quetta. Earlier, hundreds of people would visit cinemas houses to watch movies, but things aren’t the same as just few people can be seen now at cinemas.

A person associated with Pashto cinema said, “Violent scenes and anti-cultural elements in films fail to address the cultural sensitivity of Pakhtunwali. The gun culture and violent scenes in the films are major factors of cinema downfall,” he further added.

Terrorism is a massive factor in the decline of Pashto cinema in Quetta as Imdad Chowk cinema was burned twice — once in the reaction of USSR’s attack on Afghanistan and then by the activists of a religious party.

A Pashto cinema at Toghi Road, Quetta has closed and its building turning into a commercial plaza and a cinema at Prince Road Quetta has turned into a nursery.

Recently the most popular and historic Pashto cinema “Imdad Chowk“ cinema was closed by the owner.

A senior journalist from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa said, “Censor board has adopted silence and seems filmmakers are permitted whatever they want to produce.”

Since there’s no relevant legislation, anyone who has money can make a film. There’s no check in this regard. “In film industry, most of the producers invest only for their commercial interests,” the journalist further added. He said mostly Pashto films are captured in KP and then screened in Quetta as well.

A manager of a local cinema said, “The standard of the Pashto films has declined, producers and directors don’t know the cultural borderlines. 98% of the chairs in the cinemas remain empty every day and the infrastructure of the cinema is miserable.” He said that the weak standard of Pashto films is one of the contributing factors of downfall of Pashto cinema.

Once a frequented place for entertainment “Capri Cinema“ in Pashtunabad was burned down by a infuriated religious students from local madrassa as a demonstration against Nato attacks in Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.

Few years ago, Pashto cinema was on its peak. People from other districts of the province were coming to the cinema houses to watch movies but Ziaul Haq regime and after that “war on terror “ broke the fabric of Pashto cinema industry in Quetta.

After the 18th Amendment to the 1973 Constitution, the province had power to make a censor board in the region but the Balochistan government still had no success in aiding its establishment. Central Board of Film Certification still has Balochistan under its jurisdiction. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the last one to establish a provincial censor board couple of years ago.

Rahat Cinema in Quetta was burned down when Hazara community carried out a demonstration after the sectarian militants killed Hazara community members in 2013.

When the Pashto cinema was at its peak, the movies screened in Peshawar, Kohat, Quetta, Mardan, Karachi and also in Kabul also used to beat even Bollywood movies and dominated the theaters there. The Pashto cinema started its golden era in 1970, and produced variety of films as “Darra Khyber”, “Bangri” and many more.

Old picture of Imdad Chowk Cinema

One of the regular visitors of Pashto cinema raised a question, “There is no guaranteed safety anywhere, whether it is a tea stall at the bazaar or a playground, so why refrain from visiting the cinema?”

An actor of Pashto cinema said, “The federal censor board doesn’t know about the cultural sensitivity of the Pashtunwali. So, it fails to identify the issues inside the movies.”

Balochistan is now the only province which has not established its provincial censor board yet, so the CBFC has authority over the province.

Most of the persons associated with Pashto cinema consider that people are hesitant and scared after the terror attacks on public gatherings around Quetta which caused hundreds of casualties during the previous years. Therefore, no one is willing to visit cinema houses.

Prominent blogger Afia Safdar from Quetta said the provincial govt should do legislation on culture policy. “Only those movies should be screened in cinema houses which don’t violate our cultural borderlines, but it will be possible only then if provincial government establish a provincial censor board.