Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan on Tuesday dissolved the governing body of the Alhamra Arts Council in Lahore and mandated production companies to seek a prior approval of their play scripts by the government.

Imposing a ban on “poor-quality” stage plays at the arts council, the provincial information minister said that only “well-written and good” scripts would be allowed performance at Alhamra.

The organisers would also have to deposit Rs10,000 as security fee ahead of the play, he added.

The Alhamra Arts Centre

All plays scheduled to be performed at the arts council after January 1, 2019, have also been postponed for the time being.

The move, which is being termed as yet another episode of the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s “crackdown against freedom of expression” by the people on social media, comes months after the culture minister drew ire for his below-the-belt remarks against film and theatre actors.

Speaking at a public forum in August, Chohan, whose primary responsibility is to get good press for his government, had himself attracted bad press by using indecent remarks against film and stage actors.

People from all walks of life had chided the minister after he tried to explain his mind about the removal of “vulgar and indecent film signboards inside and outside the cinema halls”.

The minister had said pictures of “half-naked” women were displayed inside and outside cinema houses. For that purpose, he had said, “people go and watch porn”.

The footage of the minister’s speech had gone viral on social and electronic media, following which both Nargis and Megha, famous stage actors of yesteryears, had responded sharply to the remarks.

Fayyazul Hassan drew intense criticism after his remarks on theatre actors

Nargis had told a private TV channel that the minister should have chosen decent words while speaking about a woman, who has left the showbiz industry and is leading a peaceful family life abroad. “I reserve the right to approach a court,” she had warned.

Soon after, Megha had also appeared on a private TV channel and said the minister should be ashamed to use indecent language about her.

The uproar had led to an informal apology by the information minister.

The article originally appeared in Pakistan Today


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