January 29, 2006Foreign AffairsSecurity

Dear Amit, check for bloodstains on those DVDs

Pakistan’s pirated DVDs fund terrorism in India

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Amit Varma has been bowled over by the hospitality of ordinary Pakistanis (and why not?). Even without being there, it is easy to tell that the food, the music, the sights and the people you get to see are wonderful. The unfortunate part is that many of India’s problems are with the sights and the people you don’t get to see. Those who attempt to look beyond what they see are, well, discouraged. Those who succeed in doing so are disposed off. Amit, therefore, should be safe.

But there are times when ugly Pakistan subtly intrudes on the beautiful one without anyone noticing. Those cheap DVDs for example. Just 100 Pakistani rupees each. The odds are that they are so cheap because the sellers didn’t have to negotiate or pay royalties to the copyright owners. It took 15 years and a plea to Gen Musharraf himself for a legitimate reel of Sohni Mahiwal to be allowed to be screened in Pakistani cinemas. That’s the only Indian movie that can be legally screened in Pakistan, and that too, because it is not fully an Indian movie but a co-production with the Soviet Union.

It takes far shorter for the latest Bollywood releases to hit the Pakistani market in the DVD format. Thanks, of course, to the underworld (Also read Gaurav Sabnis). In her book on terror financing, Loretta Napoleoni writes about how the ISI found ways to finance its operations by running piracy networks. J F Rebeiro, former chief of the Bombay police who now runs the Indian Music Industry’s anti-piracy drive thinks so too. Mirroring the story of Khan the Centrifugist, in May 2005, after the Americans tightened their screws, Khalid Sadaf, godfather of music labels’ and the owner of one of the biggest piracy networks, was taken underground by the Pakistani agencies’. Dawood Ibrahim (another person Amit is unlikely to see in Karachi) remains in business. With the Pakistani government resolutely keeping shut all legitimate channels of distribution of Indian movies and music, the black market thrives. That may not be unintentional.

The monetary loss to Bollywood is quantifiable. But there’s more. Pirated DVDs sold in India are often manufactured in Pakistan, some of the proceeds of which are used to pay for guns, bullets, explosives that are used in the jihad against India. Can’t blame the Indian people for buying cheap DVDs, for they may not even know where they are coming from. Unfortunately the Indian government is not telling them. Neither is it taking up the issue with Pakistan. Clamping down on the pirated DVD business should be a nice confidence-building measure — even the Pakistani government should have no objections to helping minimize India’s cultural influence’.

Check for the bloodstains, Amit (and sorry for the cheesy line).

Update: Secular Right on familiarity and contempt

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