Geo blasphemy row engulfs ARY anchors, singer, poet

* IHC issues notices to ARY CEO, anchors Mubashar Luqman and Nida Yasir, religious singer Amjad Sabri Qawwal, poet Aqeel Mohsin Naqvi, PEMRA chief, CII chairman

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued notices to information secretary, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chairman, ARY chief executive, anchors Mubashir Lucman, Nida Yasir, Shaista Lodhi, Amjad Sabri qawwal, poet Aqeel Mohsin Naqvi, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and Cable Operators Association of Pakistan chairman in connection with the Geo TV blasphemy case.
A single-member bench of Jusice Noorul Haq Qureshi issued the notices while hearing the blasphemy petition filed by Shuhda Foundation’s lawyer Tariq Asad. During the proceeding, Tariq Asad claimed before court that the issue of alleged blasphemy on a Geo TV morning show was being highlighted only to target the Geo group, and said no action has been taken against other media houses that showed clips of that morning show. He requested the court to take action against those channels too which, he claimed, committed the same offence as Geo.
The show was aired last week by the Geo News network, which has been caught up in a struggle with the military following the shooting of anchorperson Hamid Mir who later accused the head of the ISI of being behind the attack. In his petition, advocate Tariq Asad named not only the host of the show, who has already issued a public apology, but also the anchor of a rival programme on the ARY channel for repeating the offending segment in an apparent effort to push for Geo’s closure.
“The hype was created by a host of a rival television channel who repeatedly telecast the song and in my view he is the real culprit,” he told AFP, referring to popular news anchor Mubasher Luqman. The morning show featured starlet Veena Malik dancing with her new husband while a group of Sufi musicians sang a devotional song about the wedding of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) daughter.
Its broadcast set off a storm of controversy on social media, though similar routines by other channels in the past have largely gone unnoticed. The blasphemy petition also named Amjad Sabri, the renowned qawwali (Sufi devotional) singer who featured on the show, the poet who wrote the song, the media regulatory body and the Council of Islamic Ideology, its top religious authority. Police on Saturday lodged separate charges against the actress, her husband, the head of the Geo group and the host of the show.

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