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Pakistan: 26 years prison verdict for playing religious song while staging mock marriage

28 November 2014

VeenaMalik-collage

The editor-in-chief of Geo TV, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, actor Veena Malik, her husband Asad Bashir Khan and tv-host Dr Shaista Lodhi Wahidi have been sentenced to 26 years in prison for an allegedly blasphemous tv-programme with a religious song, reported The Hindu, The News and Rural Media Network Pakistan.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman (sometimes also spelled: Mir Shakeel ur Rehman) is the owner of Pakistan’s biggest media group, Geo-Jang. He was accused of allowing the airing of an allegedly blasphemous programme by the Geo Entertainment morning show ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’ on 14 May 2014, which played a religious song while staging a mock marriage of Veena Malik with her (real-life) husband Asad Bashir Khan.

The judge of a court in Gilgit said in his judgment that all four accused committed profanity. The court in its 40-page verdict also asked the police to arrest the convicts, an official said.

Pakistani actress Veena Malik, 30, expressed shock and disbelief over the verdict: “26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime…But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan. When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen,” she was quoted as saying in The Hindu.

There are reports that all four are out of Pakistan. Rahman resides in the United Arab Emirates and the other three also went abroad after recieving threats by militant organisations.

The ATC furthermore imposed a 1.3 million Pakistani rupees fine on each of the convicts and ordered that their properties should be sold to raise the fine, if they failed to pay it.

According to details, Shaista Lodhi, the host of the programme ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’ in which Veena Malik and her husband Asad Khatak participated, sought unconditional forgiveness from Allah Almighty and the people. Her words for forgiveness were telecast by Geo 30 times.

The order is unlikely to be implemented because verdicts by courts in the region do not apply to the rest of the country. Hanif Khalid and Shakeel Anjum wrote in the daily newspaper The News:

“It merits a mention here that Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s name has also been included in the FIR, though he is neither a director nor owned a single share in the Independent Media Corporation (IMC) company that holds the licence of Geo Entertainment. He has nothing to do with the programme in question and he was in Dubai when the programme was telecast.

It also should be mentioned here that the jurisdiction of the Gilgit courts does not extend to the people living in Pakistan and is restricted to only its residents under the Constitution of Pakistan. Orders and judgments of Pakistani courts have no force in Gilgit. Similarly, orders and judgements of Gilgit courts have no binding force or legal force in Pakistan. In any case, the Gilgit judgment is in clear violation of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Gilgit is a sensitive area and the judgment in an illegal case has also put the lives of the convicts in danger. The accused were declared proclaimed offenders without serving notices on them properly. All these facts and arguments with documents were submitted in the Gilgit anti-terrorist court that has convicted programme host Shaista Lodhi, guests Veena Malik and her husband Asad Khattak, and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman without any jurisdiction.”


» The Hindu – 27 November 2014:
Blasphemy verdict: Geo group to appeal


» The Hindu – 26 November 2014:
Pak media mughal, actor Veena Malik sentenced for blasphemy


» Rural Media Network Pakistan – 26 November 2014:
Mir Shakeel ur Rehman Sentenced to 26 Years Imprisonment in Blasphemy Case


» The News – 26 November 2014:
26-year sentence on petition of murder accused without hearing defendants
By Hanif Khalid and Shakeel Anjum



Protest Campaign

Pakistan, 1 December 2014
From: World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
To: The Right Honourable Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Islamabad
Pakistan

1 December 2014

Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our grave concern at the 26-year jail sentences handed out to a media owner, an actor, her husband and a TV presenter for blasphemy.
(…)
We call on you to do everything possible to ensure that the convictions are overturned and that the authorities stop using blasphemy to stifle freedom of expression. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that your government provides protection to those advocating free speech.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Tomas Brunegård
President
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Erik Bjerager
President
World Editors Forum

» Read the protest letter on www.wan-ifra.org

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.



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