Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan Editorial: The question of entertainment A debate in the Punjab Assembly on Tuesday has revealed the anxiety that exists among our elected representatives about the death of entertainment in the face of tough Islamic provisions and considerations that are trickling in from areas under the sway of the Taliban. Acting unapologetically, a good number of them called on the government to not ban theatres and dances, “as they are a source of entertainment for the masses and are the culture of Punjab”. Punjab has had a run-in with its “10 pm theatres” that cater to the retiring shopkeepers’ taste for hilarious but somewhat ribald comedy. Acting morally prim, a lady MPA first demanded through a resolution that action should be taken against theatre performances and dances being presented across the province. The reference here was to theatres not only in Lahore — targeted with medium-sized bombs by elements sympathetic to the Taliban earlier this year — but also many in such cities as Gujranwala and Gujrat that entertain the shopkeeper class after the closure of markets at around 10 pm. The MPAs who responded to the draft resolution were mostly ladies. The mover of the bill kept insisting that “such theatres and dances as now in vogue are against the teachings of Islam, therefore stern punishment should be given to those involved in the activity in order to save the future generations”. After this some male MPAs also jumped in and made observations that represent the clerical point of view to the point of being trite. One gentleman went to the extent of saying that “such dances and theatres are not a part of our culture, rather they are a step to destroy the future generations”, and added that “airing of dances and theatres on TV channels should be replaced with historical and moral programmes to entertain the public”. The enthusiasm for inquisition and pietism was cooled by the observation made by a more knowledgeable MPA who reminded the house that the Lahore High Court had already decided that theatre and dance in the province was “entertainment” and not a corruption of morals. He suggested that the matter be directed to the Culture Department which should submit a report on whether the entertainment damned by the MPAs was actually in violation of the policy of culture in the province. The MPAs were however reluctant or unable to engage in any intellectual debate over the issue and kept repeating that theatres were a “legacy of the Q-League” and therefore the present government was not to blame for moral backsliding in Punjab. The fact is that that there is a Punjab Arts Council with offices in the cities that have cultural activity. It has been fighting a losing battle against local bureaucracy — especially police officers and magistrates out to gain fame through piety who attack theatres during performance to contain fahashi (obscenity) while the actresses caught at the theatre miraculously end up in houses set aside by the moralist officers for their own entertainment. Gujranwala and Gujrat have seen this happen in violation of laws of the province which one “pious” police officer actually refused to obey during a discussion on TV. Culture is a spiritually balancing factor in society because it is 90 percent entertainment and serves as a safety valve. By closing it to the common man, the state takes risks that it cannot even calculate. But alas that is what has been happening for the past 20 years and is now happening at a galloping pace because the Taliban are here and are claiming Pakistan as their moral domain. Nothing actually changes for the better; it just goes underground. When the political agent in Khyber inspected the house abandoned by Taliban on the run from the Pakistan Army he discovered that the entertainment-banning warriors had been watching xxx movies to while away their boredom.