As a result, Pakistani cable television distributors are furious about a ban imposed by the cable regulatory body on showing Indian channels. And they’re threatening a countrywide strike on Sunday if it isn’t lifted, an official said.

"We will block all national channels, including BBC and CNN, if (we’re) not allowed to broadcast popular (Indian) channels," the general secretary of All Pakistan cable operators welfare association, Chaudhry Imran, told AFP.
 
The ban has seriously affected business as viewers are discontinuing cable subscriptions when they do not get any popular entertainment in their language, Imran said.

"Over 98% of viewers on our cable system want to watch popular Urdu (Indian) channels," Imran said.
 
Islamabad imposed the ban in February 2002 at the height of a tense military stand-off between Pakistan and India, accusing the Indian channels of broadcasting anti-Pakistan propaganda.

Tongue tied

Although both countries are multilingual, Urdu - Pakistan's national language - is used widely in Indian television programming and films, and thus readily watched by Pakistanis.

The cable operators are not demanding Indian channels as such, but foreign channels that air Urdu language entertainment programmes, Imran said.

The association is negotiating with the state-run Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) for an end to the ban, he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman of PEMRA has urged the cable television industry association members "to join hands for promotion and strengthening of domestic television industry."

Cable operators suspect that despite a thaw in relations with  India, the ban on showing Indian programmes is reinforced by the government to protect state-run Pakistan television, which is losing advertisement revenue to foreign channels.