Mir Shakeel ur Rehman Sentenced to 26 Years Imprisonment in Blasphemy Case

Gilgit: The owner of Pakistan’s biggest media group, Geo TV along with actor Veena Malik and her husband was sentenced to 26 years in prison by an anti-terrorism court for allegedly airing a blasphemous programme.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo and Jang group, was accused of allowing the airing of a blasphemous programme by Geo television in May, which played a religious song while staging a mock marriage of Malik with Bashir. Judge Shahbaz Khan also sentenced both Malik and Bashir along with TV host Shaista Wahidi for 26 years each.

The ATC also imposed a 1.3 million Pakistani rupees fine on the convicts and ordered that their properties should be sold to raise the fine, if they failed to pay it. The judge 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. He said that the convict can appeal in the regional high court in Gilgit-Baltistan. There are reports that all four are out of Pakistan.

Rahman resides in the UAE and the other three also went abroad after recieving threats by militant organisations. It is not known when the arrests would be carried out. Both Wahidi and the Geo group have tendered apology after the allegations were levelled but the extremists in the country refused to accept it. Other blasphemy cases were also registered against them in various cities, including Karachi and Islamabad.

26-year sentence on petition of murder accused without hearing defendants
Think for a moment what is happening; 75 FIRs on one charge; cases discharged in some places but…

Hanif Khalid & Shakeel Anjum

ISLAMABAD: Imagine for a moment that there are 75 FIRs for one charge in different parts of the country. In some places, the cases proceed and in others they are quashed. There are a heap of cases on persons not connected to it on the basis of that single charge. In some places, unprecedented penalties are pronounced in cases lodged by persons who themselves are involved in heinous crimes. There were no arrest warrants, no serving of summons, no interrogation or investigation, yet the accused are condemned unheard, and slapped with rigorous terms in jail, the forfeiture of their property and passports. And that’s not all.

The horrible punishment comes from an anti-terrorism court that lacked jurisdiction, contrary to the fact that the courts enjoying jurisdiction quashed the FIRs. The worst penalty comes despite Geo Entertainment’s apologies for airing a Manqabat (eulogy) on May 14, 2014, that was earlier broadcast on several TV channels’ morning shows, including ARY’s. The earlier broadcast by these channels and its repetition later was never questioned. Six FIRs were lodged against these channels but only Geo was penalised.

The Geo Entertainment morning show’s host sought an apology from Allah and viewers which was broadcast 30 times. Many leading scholars pronounced religious decrees (Fatwas) that if someone repents and seeks atonement for such an error, Allah forgives.

It may be mentioned that dailies Jang and The News published a full page each carrying the opinions of scholars of all schools of thought, including Ahle Sunnat and Ahle Ta’shee, wherein the apology had also been sought. The morning programme — Utho, Jago Pakistan — had been discontinued forthwith and a regular inquiry started after the suspension of the programme staff.

Other channels, on the other hand, that had repeatedly broadcast the eulogy, neither opted for any apology nor did they proceed against the staff concerned.

Pemra, meanwhile, acted immediately against Geo Entertainment suspending its broadcast for one month with a fine of Rs 10 million that was paid forthwith. Therefore, Geo already stands punished for the charge. Then two courts which enjoyed jurisdiction in this matter quashed the FIRs whereas a court that lacked jurisdiction pronounced a surprising verdict.

The verdict comes from an anti-terrorism court in Gilgit whose authority, otherwise, pertains to cases related to terrorism. Just think for a moment, what’s going on!

The same court issued verbal orders of a senior reporter’s arrest to a DSP who, according to the law, sought written orders. The reporter’s only fault was that he had given an affidavit that the anti-terrorism court returned the application of a court-appointed counsel, instead of rejecting or accepting it.

The Geo administration has decided to move the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the verdict announced by an anti-terrorism court of Gilgit on Tuesday wherein it awarded Dr Shaista Lodhi, Veena Malik, her husband Asad Khattak and Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman 26-year rigorous imprisonment and Rs 13 lakh fine each and the confiscation of their property and passports in a case against Geo Entertainment’s programme ‘Utho Jago Pakistan’ telecast on May 14, 2014.

Think for a while what is happening and why it is happening. Read and understand this report. It is pertinent to point out here that the verdict was announced in the case filed by Himayatullah who himself is nominated in the murder case of a religious scholar. On the other hand, a case is registered against the FIR’s first witness and mover Muzamil Shah for allegedly killing 10 people after dragging them from buses at Chilas on the Karakorum Highway. Both cases are being heard in the same anti-terrorism court.

Muzamil remained in jail for one year and 10 months for this heinous crime and is on bail these days. The case against him has been heard by the anti-terrorism court for almost two years. The shocking murders took place about two years ago, but a decision is still pending in that case. On the other hand, in a case which had no link with terrorism and also didn’t fall in the jurisdiction of the court concerned, a hasty hearing was conducted and the harsh verdict was pronounced. The Jang Group’s legal team has conducted investigations in some areas and found that the FIRs against Geo were registered by people of suspect character as was the case in the Gilgit court.

The Gilgit court had not provided the copies of framed charges to the counsel appointed by it because they were based on fabrications and false allegations. The court didn’t even care about the lawful procedure in issuing warrants and notices. The court concerned also didn’t raise the question about the nomination of the complainant in the murder case.

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.

Notably, this very Manqabat had already been telecast by ARY and other private TV channels. On that very night, ARY’s programme ‘Khara Sach’ tried to prove the Geo Entertainment’s programme’s blasphemy and this channel re-telecast that very Manqabat of Geo 60 times. The channel also made some personalities declare the programme blasphemous. In the meantime, Geo News and Geo Entertainment repeatedly sought pardon for the unintentional mistake. Geo News and Geo Entertainment kept telecasting the opinion of recognised Shia and Sunni scholars that if such an unintentional mistake is made by someone and forgiveness from Allah Almighty is sought, He forgives the person concerned.

Despite that, a conspiracy was hatched against Geo and a move was launched, resulting in the registration of dozens of FIRs all over the country at the instigation of Geo’s opponents. As per our knowledge, about 75 FIRs were registered in Sindh, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Gilgit Baltistan. In some FIRs, some clauses of the Anti-Terrorism Act were inserted despite the fact that the programme in question had nothing to do with terrorism. When the FIR, on which the ATC announced the sentence on Tuesday, was filed in Gilgit, the accused had gone abroad. The challans, which were submitted by the police to the court, were also based on lies. But the anti-terrorism court, Gilgit, appointed a counsel itself and completed the hearing of the case in haste.

According to our knowledge, the counsel for the accused had submitted an application under Article A265, listing reasons for the case being illegal. But the basic requirements of the court proceedings were never fulfilled, though the court should have decided on the application before announcing a verdict in the case. It was impossible for the accused to defend themselves separately in all 75 FIRs. Therefore, the Geo management filed a petition in the apex court requesting consolidation of all FIRs, registered in different provinces. The Supreme Court, in its order, asked the plaintiff to move the high courts. In this regard, petitions filed by the accused are pending in all four high courts, while the Sindh High Court has reserved its verdict after completing proceedings.

The opponents of the Geo Group got registered nine FIRs in Gilgit, which has a separate legal system and various fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of Pakistan, are not given under the Gilgit laws.

In two FIRs, two sections of the Anti-Terrorist Act (ATA) were also included. One FIR was lodged by one Himayatullah, a nominated accused in the murder of a religious leader.

It is relevant to mention here that two FIRs, registered in Karachi’s two police stations – Mithadar, where the Jang/Geo offices are situated, and Nazimabad – have already been quashed after the investigation officer concerned completed their probe in accordance with the law.

Karachi’s anti-terrorism court deputy district prosecutor, in his letter sent on July 11, 2014 to the Mithadar police station SHO, stated that the basic elements of criminal liability that is mens-rea is missing in this matter. Absence of mens-rea and “unintentional and innocent happenings” are not culpable under the established principles of criminal liability, the letter said.

The district prosecutor further said in the letter that lodging of an FIR in respect of broadcasting offences is barred under Section 34 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002. Hence, lodging of an FIR is illegal and void ab initio.

The letter said that the allegations made in the FIR fall within the ambit of broadcasting offences and Section 37 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 provides a complete bar to the penal offences.

The prosecutor said that the forwarding of a charge-sheet in the instant crime would amount to the abuse and misuse of the process of law, as the alleged offence did not fall within the ambit of any of the punitive sections of Pakistan Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.

Later, the Mithadar and Nazimabad police stations submitted challans in the Anti-Terrorism Courts requesting quashing of FIRs, and the court accepted their pleas and quashed the FIRs.

In the same manner, the Chaman judicial magistrate quashed an FIR on June 24, 2014, mentioning in his order that the incident did not occur in the jurisdiction of Chaman, and therefore proceedings could not be initiated here. Secondly, the magistrate, referring to Article 13 of the Constitution, observed that it was an issue of double jeopardy as no one can be penalised twice in one offence. Any accused can be tried and penalised in one area where the offence has been committed.

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.

Source: The NEWS


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