Karachi: The management of Pakistan’s top television channel, Geo TV, on Friday set up an enquiry and suspended the team responsible for the production of its morning show ‘Utho Jaago Pakistan’.
The host of the show allegedly committed blasphemy in one recent programme angering Muslims across the country.
The controversy started when host Dr Shaista Lodhi and a live music band played a Sufi song during the re-enactment of controversial actress Veena Malek’s wedding while attendants at the event danced.
The song is about the wedding of Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) daughter.
Drawing a parallel by comparing Malek with the most revered personality of Islam angered both Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
The scholars and Muftis of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), an alliance of various Sunni groups, issued a decree against the host, the team handling the programme and the channel saying watching Geo TV was ‘haram’ or illegitimate.
In a press conference, Hamid Raza, the SIC chief said that the manner in which the song was depicted was totally forbidden.
Raza warned of a series of protests and sit-ins across the country if Geo TV was not taken off the air.
Fasial Raza Abidi, the former senator of PPP, who belongs to the Shiite community, also joined Raza at the press conference and warned that if the government failed to ban Geo TV, the public would.
They also demanded that cases be registered against the host and the producer of the programme and for the case to be taken up with the apex court of the country.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) also deplored the incident. In a statement, party spokesman Shireen Mazari said that Geo TV’s act had hurt millions of Muslims across the world.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued Geo TV with a show cause notice for airing the alleged blasphemous programme, seeking an explanation from the administration.
The PEMRA spokesman said that some 5,000 viewers registered complaints with the authority regarding the show.
The Geo TV management in a communique said that the programme’s host Dr Shaista was sorry about her inadvertent mistake.
In Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death.
Protests erupted in various cities, including Karachi, Faisalabad and Multan, with activists from religious organisations chanting slogans and flashing banners and placards inscribed with slogans against the channel.
According to media reports, protests in Faisalabad were held by workers of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen and Sunni Ittehad Council. In Karachi, The Ahle-Sunnat Wal Jamaat held a protest at Nagan Chowrangi and Imamia Student Organisation at Numaish Chowrangi.
The participants in the rallies demanded that the federal government shut the news channel down.