Caving in.

Byline: Maheen Usmani

LAST month, Pakistani clerics were finally united on a single platform: in opposition over a film they had not seen. Following outcry from the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, the government announced that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) would review director Sarmad Khoosat's Zindagi Tamasha along with a member of the same far-right group from which 86 members were handed 55-year prison sentences by an antiterrorism court. But now the remaining members have been put to good use as preachers of public morality.

Read: Govt approaches CII to 'critically review' film Zindagi Tamasha as release blocked across country

The review, scheduled for Feb 3, did not take place, and both the government and CII have remained silent since. Incidentally, Zindagi Tamasha had twice been cleared by the Central Board of Film Censors and two provincial boards. But what was not visible to distinguished members of society - as well as to the jury of South Korea's prestigious Busan International Film Festival, who conferred an award on it - was immediately apparent to the clerics after watching a two-minute trailer on YouTube. 'Blasphemy,' they proclaimed.

The release of Zindagi Tamasha was proAmptly halted because, according to the critics, it would not be good form to release a film portraying an 'anti-Islam narrative'. The beleaguered director pleaded on social media that the film only shows a religious man with shades of grey. '[The film is] an empathetic and heartfelt story ... He is a human being portrayed through a very humane eye.'

But the critics refused to back down, logic (which makes an appearance only on select occasions) not being the way to assuage their outrage. When children are assaulted and murdered by madressah clerics, it is not deemed worthy of protest because it does not hurt their sentiments. As for the CII, its erudition might finally be put to good use, since, in the past, it has deliberated on issues such as underage marriages, whether co-education is halal, and if female judges should be obliged to wear the niqab.

Pakistan continues to have a knee-jerk relationship with bans.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry called on Netflix and Amazon to invest in Pakistani content. Such incidents are undoubtedly part of our confidence-building measures to attract these streaming giants to make gritty dramas.

Since time immemorial, writers and artists have reflected on the society they live in...

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