Pakistanis have been left without their daily fix of Indian soap operas and Bollywood movies after cable operators across the country stopped beaming Indian entertainment channels on the orders of a media regulatory body.
Leading Indian entertainment channels of Star and Sony networks have disappeared from cable networks across the country while several international news channels like BBC and CNN are no longer being beamed in some parts of Pakistan for the past few days.
A message displayed on the Nayatal cable network in Islamabad said the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority had "suspended some channels". It did not give details.
PEMRA Chairman Malik Mushtaq told reporters that the decision had been taken on the directions of the Supreme Court.
"Cable operators have been directed to immediately stop broadcasting all those channels which have no landing rights (in Pakistan)," he said. Media reports said the Supreme Court blacked out Indian channels on the recommendation of the information and broadcasting ministry on August 25.
Pakistan Cable Operators Association official Muhammad Sadiq told PTI, "Cable operators have been directed to stop airing at least 30 channels, including entertainment channels like Star Plus, Sony, Set Max, Star Gold, Zee TV, Zee Movies, Star Movies, sports channels like Star Sports, ESPN, Super Sports and news channels like CNN, BBC and AL Jazeera."
Some popular Islamic channels broadcast from abroad, including the India-based Peace TV, and several sports channels too have been affected by the directive from PEMRA. There has been widespread public outrage against PEMRA's order to remove these channels which are watched by millions of people. Sports lovers could not watch the first day of the Test match between Pakistan and England being played at Lords on Star Sports.
Others complained they had been deprived of the broadcast of special tarawee prayers from Mecca on a religious channel.
Muneeza Begum, a domestic help who likes to unwind after a long day by watching Indian entertainment channels, said, "My children have been complaining for the past three days as they cannot watch their favourite dramas."
Rights activist Hina Abbas said, "Since we are already a fun-starved nation, such an action will deprive everyone the luxury of watching entertainment channels."
Pakistan Cable Operators Association official Muhammad Sadiq said cable networks were receiving numerous calls from subscribers about the removal of popular channels from their networks.
"Many of the callers are furious and are not ready to listen to our explanation," he said.