ISLAMABAD Pakistani censors have banned an Indian comedy film featuring a lookalike of al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, the film's distributor said on Wednesday.
The ban had been anticipated on grounds that Islamist extremists could use it as a pretext for attacks.
"They have banned it in Pakistan," Nadeem Mandviwall told Reuters. "We have moved an appeal against the board decision but there's little chance we will get relief."
Mandviwall had earlier said censors had found no fault with the film itself.
"It's because they think somebody might do something. They're not saying there's something wrong in the film or the picture is against Osama bin Laden or maligning him," he said.
Walwater Media's production, "Tere Bin Laden" ("Without You, Bin Laden"), revolves around a television journalist whose sole ambition is to gain residency in the United States.
The journalist, played by Pakistani pop star Ali Zafar, films a video with the lookalike, which quickly goes viral online, and attempts to migrate to the United States.
"Our full board have watched the movie and the majority has decided it's not suitable for exhibition," Masood Elahi, vice chairman of the Censor Board of Pakistan (CBP), told Reuters before the ban was imposed. He gave no reasons for the ban.
The 57-member board is made up of members from the media and public representatives and religious clerics.
Mandviwali said a ban would prompt a variety of interest groups to seek similar bars on any film they found objectionable.
Plans had called for the movie, had it escaped a ban, to be shown with the amended title "Tere Bin," ("Without You"), because of sensitivity surrounding the name of the al Qaeda chief.
Militants linked to al Qaeda are trying to topple the civilian democratic government in conservative, Muslim Pakistan and enforce harsh Taliban-style rule. They have killed thousands in bomb and suicide attacks on minorities, markets, mosques, security forces and western targets.
Al Qaeda and Taliban militants have taken refuge in Pakistan's border regions after U.S.-led forces ousted the radical Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
(Editing by Chris Allbritton and Ron Popeski)