Tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed region of Kashmir have led cinemas in Pakistan to stop screening Indian films in ‘solidarity’ with the country’s armed forces after a recent escalation in violence between the two nuclear-armed archrivals.
Following an Indian security forces crackdown on dissent in Indian-controlled Kashmir that began in July, relations between the two countries have deteriorated. In September, militants killed 18 soldiers in a raid on an Indian Army base, an attack that New Delhi blames on Pakistan.
"We have stopped screening Indian movies at our cinemas from Friday till the situation improves and normalcy returns," said Nadeem Mandviwalla, whose Mandviwalla Entertainment runs eight cinemas in Karachi and the capital, Islamabad.
On September 29, India claimed to have carried out "surgical strikes" in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which Pakistan condemned and denied.
The Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association (IMPPA), a small filmmakers' body, has now banned their members from hiring Pakistani actors. According to Mandviwalla and other cinema owners, the Pakistani ban was also in response to IMPPA's move.
It was later reported in the Indian media that a leader of a regional right-wing party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, had given Pakistani actors 48 hours to leave India or face being "pushed out."
The party is one of two Mumbai-based hard-line parties that have regularly called for artists hailing from Pakistan to be banned from working in India.
Indian films are spectacularly popular in Pakistan, both at the cinema and on bootlegged DVDs.
While the domestic film industry in Pakistan has seen a revival recently, it is dwarfed by India's Bollywood. Pakistani actors have increasingly appeared in big-budget Bollywood films.
Some Indian actors, however, came to the defense of their Pakistani counterparts.
"They are artists. These are two different subjects. They were terrorists; these are artists. What do you think, artists are terrorists?" Salman Khan, one of Bollywood's biggest stars, said to reporters when asked if he agreed that the actors should be forced out.
Khurram Gultasab, general manager at Super Cinemas, which runs 10 cinemas in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, said his group would also not be screening Indian films.
"I think we should show solidarity with our army engaged at very hot borders right now and secondly with our actors," he said, adding that the move was by cinema owners themselves and not by government directions.
Other cinemas in Pakistan posted on social media saying they would not be showing Indian films following last week’s violence.
With reporting by Syed Raza Hassan for Reuters