Compensation for cinemas
After the devastation caused to cinemas across the country on September 21, the Pakistan Film Exhibitor’s Association is demanding that the government compensate it for the losses it suffered. This is an idea the government needs to consider, not just for cinema owners but for every business that suffered damages during the protests, not least because the government ended up encouraging people to come out on the streets by declaring the day a national holiday. Security is the sole responsibility of the state and it has failed so miserably in the task that it must now bear the costs of damage and recovery. Small business owners usually cannot afford insurance and scarcely have the resources to build their enterprises from the ground up. The initial package announced by the government is a start but these funds must be disbursed immediately and more should be forthcoming.
Cinema owners, in particular, have been in dire need of government assistance even before their cinemas were destroyed. For decades, a pointless government ban on showing Indian movies, coupled with the decaying local industry, brought the cinema industry to its knees. Just as the ban was lifted and the industry started its slow recovery, along came the protestors. Compensating cinema owners for these losses is not only vital for them, but also for a country that has few avenues of entertainment and public spaces to speak of.
Now that it has been established that cinemas will be a prime target during religious protests, the government also needs to go beyond monetary help. It should provide security at cinemas just as it should at the franchises of Western fast food chains because these are often the first sites in the protestors’ crosshairs. However, ideally, the government should ensure foolproof security everywhere since the police seem to disappear into thin air when mobs attack. Next time, the government should not be caught without its guard on and if it is, it should ensure that it restores all that has been destroyed.