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Uproar over Geo programme turns into full-blown controversy

Updated May 17, 2014 12:59pm
Chairman Cable Operator Association Khalid Arain addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press club. — Photo by Online
Chairman Cable Operator Association Khalid Arain addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press club. — Photo by Online

LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Friday adopted a watered down resolution against the Geo Television for, what the opposition called, airing of a blasphemous programme in its morning transmission, while protest rallies against the media house were held across the country.

The original mover of the resolution and the opposition leader, Mahmoodur Rasheed of the Tehreek-i-Insaf, wanted a harsh wording like “blasphemous and hurting sentiments of 180 million people”.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, however, came up with some amendments and read his version, which was later adopted by the House in which the ruling PML-N enjoyed a two-thirds majority.

It says: “The House condemns this blasphemous attempt and urges the [electronic media regulator] Pemra, which has already taken a notice, to act according to law and justice. The house also urges ulema to provide intellectual and religious guidance to the people of Pakistan.”

Religious parties and associations and organisations of traders, lawyers, students and people from other walks of life took to streets in almost all big and small towns from Karachi to Peshawar against the offensive content aired a couple of days ago and demanded a ban on the TV channel.

In Karachi, at least 12 reporters associated with the media house disrupted a press conference by the Cable Operators Association, misbehaving with the guests and damaging the press club property.

The act invited condemnation from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

The Islamabad [Aabpara] police got registered a report in their Daily Diary (Roznamcha) against Geo in response to a complaint by a lawyer.

Complainant Mansoor Shah pleaded that a case be registered against Geo, its owner Mir Shakeelur Rehman, son Mir Ibrahimur Rehman, morning show host Shaista Lodhi, Veena Malik, Asad Khatak and the administration for blasphemy during the show aired on May 14.

The complaint was sent to the prosecution department to seek legal opinion.

In Lahore, PTI women’s wing threatened to lay siege to the Geo offices, while Jamaatud Dawa, Tehreek Hurmat-i-Rasool, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, and various students’ wings of political parties staged rallies in various parts of the city. They threatened a countrywide movement if the channel was not banned.

Scholars of the Sunni Ittehad Council, a conglomerate of Barelvi school of thought, have already issued a fatwa against the channel forbidding the followers from watching it.

Council chief Hamid Raza had also threatened that his organisation would hold a sit-in for an indefinite period if ‘justice’ was not served.

Geo, in its broadcast since Thursday, has repeatedly apologised for the offensive content and has been seeking divine forgiveness.

Cable operators: In Karachi, the leadership of the Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP) addressed a press conference at another venue after facing a mayhem-like situation at the KPC.

The leaders asked CAP members across the country to decide ‘according to their conscience’ whether to screen Geo TV to their clientele. However, they cautioned, operators should ensure that nothing came in conflict with religious harmony and national security.

In a statement distributed at the at the KPC, Khalid Arain, CAP chairman, said his organisation had appealed to the Geo TV management at an earlier press conference to refrain from its ‘vicious propaganda campaign’ against a premier national security institution because ‘such irresponsible act’ had hurt the sentiments of viewers.

“But, we say it with extreme grief that Geo TV is continuously creating chaos while acting against the interests of the country and the nation. That episode had not yet finished when its morning show anchor desecrated the sanctity of the Ahle Bait, which has angered everyone gravely,” he said.

Mr Arain said members could not bear the responsibility of the ‘irresponsible broadcasting’ by Geo TV because “we don’t know whether it goes for another blunder in future that could desecrate the tenets of Islam or target national security or humiliate the Pakistan Army”.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2014