The owner of Pakistan’s biggest media group, Geo TV along with controversial actress Veena Malik were sentenced to 26 years in prison by an anti-terrorism court for airing a blasphemous programme.
Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of Geo and Jang group, was accused of broadcasting a blasphemous programme on Geo TV in May, which included a mock marriage scene of Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) daughter, acted out by Malik and her husband Bashir Khan.
Judge Shahbaz Khan sentenced both Malik and Khan, along with TV host Shaista Wahidi for 26 years each.
The court order read out by the judge stated: “The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt their feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is a need to strictly curb such tendency”.
In the 40-page verdict, the court also asked the police to arrest the convicts, an official said.
Judge Shahbaz said that they can appeal in the regional high court in Gilgit-Baltistan.
In response to the court order, Malik told Gulf News: “26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime. But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan
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“When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen.”
However, Malik may not actually end up serving her sentence.
The court order will be enforced in the city of Gilgit, which is located between Pakistan and Indian occupied Kashmir.
As such, it is not considered a proper province by Pakistan, meaning that any verdicts delivered by its courts do not apply to the rest of the county.
“I have always been a person who faced troubles by looking it in the eye,” Malik, currently in Dubai, said of her decision to return to Pakistan in the next two weeks and challenge the court order.
“I have faced highs and lows in my life. But I am sure I haven’t done anything wrong.”
As well as the hefty jail term, the guilty parties were also ordered to pay a fine of 3 million rupees (£8,000), surrender their passports and even sell up their properties.
All four are currently outside of Pakistan. Rahman resides in the UAE and the other three also went abroad after receiving threats by hardline Islamic groups.
It is not known when the arrests would be carried out.
Both Wahidi and the GEO group have issued an apology after the allegations were levelled but the conservative Islamic groups in the country refused to accept it.