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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
Kabul bans Indian films
Indian film Devdas
Indian films draw huge crowds in Afghanistan
Officials in the Afghan capital, Kabul, have banned Indian films from being shown on television and ruled that radio must not broadcast women singing.

Film being edited
Films are censored by the Afghan Film Institute
The decision has been taken by the recently appointed Head of State Television and Radio in the city, Mohammad Ishaq, a senior member of the former Northern Alliance.

Indian films, with their mix of melodrama, romance and songs have become hugely popular since the fall of the Taleban, who banned music and television.

The move is seen a sign of a continuing struggle for influence between Islamists and moderates.

The new restrictions are likely to prove deeply unpopular and complicate matters for President Hamid Karzai and his Information Minister Sayeed Raheen Makhdoom.

Struggle for control

Fresh restrictions are a sensitive issue for the government which has generally followed a more liberal course following five years of Taleban rule during which public music and television were banned.

Ironically, Indian films and images of women singing are regularly shown in Kandahar, the deeply conservative former Taleban stronghold and often appear on television in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

However, Kabul TV has remained under the influence of more conservative elements of the Northern Alliance and images of women singing have not been allowed on television.

Mr Ishaq's predecessor, Abdul Hafiz Mansoor, another Northern Alliance official, was dismissed several weeks ago by the information minister.

Mr Mansoor said he was criticised for airing too many statements of the Northern Alliance's slain leader, Ahmad Shah Masood, and for refusing to show women singing on television.

Protests

His removal prompted a protest by hundreds of his followers earlier this month, and officials at the Information Ministry called on President Karzai to dismiss a newly appointed minister, Sayeed Raheen Makhdoom.

Protesters said Mr Makhdoom was trying to impose Western values on Kabul radio and television.

Mr Makhdoom, who returned from exile in the United States last year, became information minister in June.

The Northern Alliance, of which Mr Ishaq is a senior member and which dominates President Karzai's government, helped the US oust the Taleban regime last year.


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