Pakistan has banned an Indian-made comedy film about Osama bin Laden for fear it could spark terrorist attacks, officials said Wednesday.
The film, “Tere Bin Laden,” is about a Pakistani journalist desperate to get a visa to the U.S. who pretends to score an interview with the elusive al-Qaida chief after finding a look-alike. Though a Bollywood film, it is unusual because it stars a Pakistani actor, Ali Zafar.
The film was set for release in Pakistan and elsewhere on Friday. There were reports that producers would release it here by just the name “Tere Bin” to downplay the focus on the Sept. 11 mastermind believed to be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
“Tere Bin Laden” means “Without You Laden,” so the shortened version would mean “Without You.”
Pakistan’s film censor board decided that, because of the bin Laden connection, the movie could trigger terrorist attacks in a nation already suffering from them, said a senior board member.
The board member and a board staffer who also confirmed the decision agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the subject. They noted that the decision can be appealed.
It’s not unprecedented for Pakistan to ban films, especially if linked to its longtime regional archrival, but the impact of such censorship is likely to be limited.
While there are some movie theaters in the bigger cities that will be affected, DVDs are a more common means of watching movies here. And pirated ones are easily secured in Pakistan, where there are chains of stores that specialize in them.
Indian films are popular in Pakistan, though only some make it to the big screens.
Zafar’s manager Faraz Ahmed said the actor, currently in the Indian city of Mumbai, was aware of the decision but that it had not been conveyed in writing. He said they were still in touch with Pakistani authorities in hopes of getting clearance.
“I know that an appeal against the board order will be filed today,” he said.