For airing programme ‘hurting religious sentiments’

A Pakistani court on Saturday ordered police to register a case against Geo TV, actress Veena Malik, her husband Asad Khatak and others over a programme that allegedly contained blasphemous content.

District and sessions judge of Okara in Punjab province ordered that a case be registered against Geo media group owner Mir Shakilur Rehman, anchor Shaistan Lodhi, Ms. Malik, Mr. Khatak and others.

The court issued the order on a complaint that Ms. Lodhi, in her programme Utho Jago Pakistan on Geo entertainment last Wednesday, had allegedly insulted the family members of Prophet Muhammad. Ms. Malik and her husband were guests on the programme.

Geo group has since suspended Ms. Lodhi’s programme.

Ms. Lodhi has apologised to her viewers for hurting their sentiments after the programme drew bitter reaction from them.

As scores of applications have been filed in various Pakistani courts seeking the accused to be tried under blasphemy laws, another court in Gujranwala district summoned them on May 29, after admitting a petition in this regard.

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) — which said it has received over 5,000 complaints against the programme — has already served a show-cause notice on Geo Entertainment network for airing objectionable content and sought immediate explanation from the channel.

Religious parties, including Jammat-ud-Dawah, held demonstrations in various parts of the country on Friday and Saturday and demanded that the accused be tried under the blasphemy laws. Meanwhile, both Ms. Lodhi and Ms. Malik have gone ‘underground’ fearing backlash from extremists.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Islamic Pakistan and insulting the Prophet can lead to death penalty.