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Peshawar cinema torn down months after attack
Workers are demolishing the Shabistan Cinema after protesters did Rs. 100m in damage to it last September.
By Syed Ansar Abbas
PESHAWAR – The owner of a cinema that was attacked last year has decided to demolish the building. "My cinema was partially damaged several times, but this time the protesters became violent and severely damaged the cinema and compelled me to convert it into a commercial plaza," Aftab Sabri, owner of the Shabistan Cinema, told Central Asia Online.
The violence occurred last September during nationwide protests against a film that was interpreted as an insult to Islam. Protesters ignored the Pakistani government's call for peaceful action and damaged the cinema September 21 during Yum-e-Ishq-e-Rasool (PBUH) celebrations. About 20 people were killed and more than 200 were injured nationwide during the riots, media reported.
The protesters destroyed the [air-conditioning] plant, machinery, seats and screen completely," Sabri said. "I lost more than Rs. 100m (US $1m)."
Fewer cinemas in Peshawar
Peshawar once had 15 cinemas, but with the deterioration in law and order, now it has only nine functioning cinemas – the Picture House, Tasveer Mehal, Naz, Arshad, Aina, Shama, Capital, Sabrina and PAF [Pakistani Air Force] cinemas.
Developers have converted the Palwasha, Novelty, Metro, Falksair and Ishrat into shopping plazas, similar to plans for the Shabistan.
"If the remaining cinemas too become plazas, the film viewers will be unable to watch movies," said Dilawar Khan, 35, of Peshawar.
"The government should support the cinema owners to protect the standard films; otherwise, the viewers will have no option except to watch CDs, which are full of vulgarity," Dilawar added.
Pakistan reacts to loss of another theatre
The demolition of the Shabistan, formerly the Firdos, has prompted calls for government support.
"If the [Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)] government will not support the film industry and cinema owners, the remaining eight cinemas will be closed slowly and gradually," Shahid Khan, a film producer, film investor and the Arshad Cinema's owner, told Central Asia Online. "It's very disappointing that the cinemas are turning into plazas."
"We [cinema owners] met the provincial cultural minister [Information and Culture Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain] and advised him to establish cinemas in every new government plaza and building, so the citizens of this militancy-hit city could get an opportunity of entertainment," Khan said.
"The [KP] government is keen to promote the positive and cultural activities in the province," Iftikhar said. "The present government in the province has written off the taxes on cinemas."
He added that the government is ready to help secure cinemas, whether by deploying additional police or by supplementing existing cinema security.
And the industry remains committed to forging ahead.
"Despite this terrible law-and-order situation, we are trying our best to produce films for the viewers of Peshawar and KP," Khan said.