Actress Sentenced To 26 Years In Prison For Appearing In A Mock Marriage With Her Hubby
Bollywood actress Veena Malik along with her husband Asad Bashir Khan, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the owner of Pakistan's Geo TV and Jang Group, and Shaista Wahidi, a TV host, has been sentenced to 26 years in prison by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan for broadcasting a "blasphemous" programme
What was this blasphemous programme?
On 13 May 2014, Geo TV had telecast a programme called Utho Jago Pakistan, which showed a mock marriage between Veena Malik and her husband.
The programme which was broadcast live on Geo TV, reportedly showed “Veena Malik dancing with her new husband while a group of Sufi musicians sang a devotional song about the wedding of the Prophet Muhammad's daughter”.
After religious groups objected, the channel publicly apologised and published an apology in the group’s English and Urdu newspapers.
Following which a petition was filed in May against the show and its participants, stating that they had "used derogatory language" and were guilty of "committing blasphemy by airing objectionable contents" against the family of the Prophet
“The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency,” the 40-page verdict said.thinkprogress.org
The verdict against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman along with the host of the show and two guests was announced by an anti-terror court in the city of Gilgit, which is controlled by Pakistan but part of the Kashmir region which India also claims.straitstimes.com
As none of the four accused were present at the trial, so the anti-terror court arranged for a state lawyer to defend them. The court also imposed a USD13,000 fine to all those convicted, and ordered that their properties be sold off in order to pay the fine.
Along with a TV executive and host, the famous couple have been ordered to surrender their passports and properties as well as pay a fine of nearly $13,000 for the offending program which set off a firestorm of controversy when it first aired in May.
Many observers suggested that blasphemy accusations were part of a broader campaign to malign Geo TV, the country’s largest news channel. The independent network has long been the target of scorn from country’s religious lobby, military supporters, and business rivals.
Geo TV picked a tough fight in April when it accused the ISI, Pakistan’s powerful spy agency of shooting the influential talk show host, Hamid Mir. The channel was ordered off the air and fined $100,000 following complaints filed by the ministry of defense.
The actress, who lives with her husband in Dubai, claims that she is innocent and would never commit blasphemy. She said that she would return to Pakistan in December to fight the sentence.
“26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime... But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan,” Malik said in a recent interview quoted by Gulf News. “When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen.”independent.co.uk
“We are planning to return to Pakistan in December,” she said. “I have always been a person who faced troubles by looking it in the eye. I have faced highs and lows in my life. But I am sure I haven’t done anything wrong.”thinkprogress.org
However, the order is unlikely to be implemented as the Gilgit-Baltistan region is not considered a full-fledged province by Pakistan and verdicts by its courts do not apply to the rest of the country. So chances are Veena may not end up in prison.
Although, similar blasphemy allegations have been registered against the four elsewhere, including in the cities of Islamabad and Karachi.
But such charges aren't always mere theatrics. Blasphemy is a capital offence in Pakistan, and since the laws around it are open-ended, they’re often invoked to settle political scores and unfairly target minorities.