7th October 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Human rights activists have expressed alarm at the indictment of actor Saba Qamar and singer Bilal Saeed in an alleged case of desecration of Wazir Khan mosque.
A court on Wednesday indicted Qamar and Saeed in the desecration case and directed the prosecution to present its witnesses on 14th October. Both suspects appeared before judicial magistrate Javeria Munir Bhatti and pleaded not guilty.
Lives put in danger: Harris Khalique
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Harris Khalique, Secretary-General of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, expressed alarm at the indictment of the actor and the singer. “The indictment has put their lives in danger,” he said. The duo will live in a state of fear of reprisal attacks and threats during the course of proceedings to determine their guilt, he added.
Khalique said the alleged desecration case was result of the growing extremism in the society. In his view, the duo had done nothing to desecrate the sanctity of the mosque. “In everyday life, we see couples doing their wedding shoot in Lahore’s historic Badhsahi Mosque after the Nikah ceremony there,” he said.
“The Wazir Khan mosque is also a historical monument and they did the photoshoot there with permission,” he added.
Extremism on the rise: Fareeda Shaheed
According to rights activist Fareeda Shaheed, the indictment would lead to further harassment of the actor and singer. “The whole issue of the photoshoot was politicised due to growing extremism in the society, a legacy of the Zia martial,” she told Voicepk.net.
Shaheed said the desecration case was pointless in that the mosque are supposed to be a community centre and not just a worship place. In strict Islamist regimes like Iran, women and children are allowed in a mosque as worshippers offer prayers, she pointed out.
“In a visit to a mosque in Shiraz, we saw women talking and children playing in the compound while worshippers offered prayers there,” Shaheed said.
The impact of Zia’s policies had greatly fostered extremist behavior in the society. “Even now, we are witnessing how the present government is welcoming revival of the Taliban government in Kabul and talking of forgiving the perpetrators of the children massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar,” she said.
The case was registered on court direction following an application by a lawyer, Farhat Manzoor Chandio, that the duo had violated the sanctity of the mosque by holding a photoshoot there. Chandio claimed that their act had hurt religious sentiments of the citizens. The Akbari Gate police registered a case against both suspects under section 295 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) dealing with offence of injuring or defiling a place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class.
In his arguments, the defence counsel stated that the FIR was contrary to the facts as no dance or music took place at the mosque as alleged. He said his clients were innocent and falsely implicated in the case for ulterior motives.