The exchange of entertainment content between India and Pakistan has been inconsistent in recent years due to rising political tensions between the historically feuding countries. The latest restrictive measure to make news is the notification by the State Bank of Pakistan, issued Monday, instructing restriction on all modes of payment to Indian content streaming services, including Zee5. Zee5 hosts multiple Pakistani television and web-series, including the recently popular Churails.
As commentators object to such a step by Pakistan, it is necessary to recall that Pakistani content streaming remains under equals restrictions within India.
In 2016, following the Uri attack in India, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited’s (ZEEL) Zindagi channel, which primarily aired Pakistani television shows for Indian audiences, was shut down in India. Four years later, Zee reintroduced Pakistani content to its audiences via its OTT streaming app, Zee5. While streaming remains an option, Pakistani content is no longer allowed to air on Indian television.
Pakistani actors working in India, including Mahira Khan, Fawad Khan, and Ali Zafar, were forced to leave the country in 2016. Indian films starring Pakistani actors, such as Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Raees also faced severe backlash by Indian audiences. The ban on Pakistani actors in India remains in place today.
India also cut off sporting ties with Pakistan following the 2019 Pulwama attack. Pakistan responded to the tension by banning the screening of Bollywood movies.
Following the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status by the Indian government on 5th August 2019, political tensions have translated into cultural tensions. Singer Atif Aslam’s public condemnation of the Indian government’s atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir resulted in huge boycotts of the singer by Indian audiences. Facing backlash, Indian music company T-Series removed all songs featuring Pakistani musicians from its YouTube channel.
Similarly, streaming of Pakistani radio content also remains banned in India.
While cultural exchange between India and Pakistan remains accessible through streaming platforms such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime, the restrictions on channels and apps originating in the opposing country remain bilateral.