Pakistani actress Veena Malik expressed shock and disbelief at a verdict by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentencing her to 26 years in prison for blasphemy.
“26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime … But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan. When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen,” said Malik in an interview with tabloid! on Wednesday.
A Pakistan court on Tuesday sentenced the owner of the country’s biggest media group to 26 years in prison for broadcasting a show it said was blasphemous.
The verdict against Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman along with the host of the show and two guests, including Malik, was announced by an anti-terror court in the city of Gilgit, in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan region.
But the order is unlikely to be implemented because verdicts by courts in the region do not apply to the rest of the country.
The four people convicted were also ordered to pay a fine of Rs1.3 million (Dh47,700), sell their properties and surrender their passports, according to a copy of the court order.
“The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency,” the order said.
No lawyer appeared on behalf of any of the accused. However the court had arranged a state lawyer to defend them.
The morning show broadcast live on Geo TV in May featured Malik dancing with her new husband while a group of Sufi musicians sang a devotional song about the wedding of the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) daughter. Malik disputes that she danced in the show and was seated in a respectable manner.
She urged her fans to watch the YouTube clip of the show.
"I am not Veena Malik, a woman any more. I am a mother to a two-month-old baby and a wife. I would surely want the common people who read the news to watch the clip. I was a guest on the show along with my husband and I was just seated in a respectable manner. I was not the one controlling the content of the show or its editing," said Malik, adding that the religious song that was played in the background was not under her control.
She also felt that such a verdict is an attempt to tarnish her image. She claims that such a sentence would undo years of good work such as helping earthquake victims in her native country.
"How could they pass a judgement against a woman who just delivered a baby through C-section? I dreamt of building a hospital in Pakistan and do other good work. This sentence is ridiculous and I am innocent. I feel emotionally broken."
Its broadcast set off a storm of controversy on social media, though similar routines by other channels in the past have largely gone unnoticed.
Malik returned to Dubai two weeks ago from the US after giving birth to a baby boy. Her lawyer is already at work to appeal against the verdict in higher courts.
“I have complete faith in Pakistan’s higher courts and judiciary … This court works separately from the other courts in Pakistan. There are higher courts in Pakistan such as the Supreme Court. Whenever there is an issue a court will look into the facts of the case. We were not even present in the court at the time of the verdict. I have belief and trust in courts.”
She maintains that she’s innocent and would never commit blasphemy.
“We are planning to return to Pakistan in December. I have always been a person who faced troubles by looking it in the eye. I have faced highs and lows in my life. But I am sure I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Many observers at the time suspected Pakistan’s military establishment of engineering the blasphemy campaign against Geo TV.
The channel was then caught up in a struggle with the all-powerful military.
The blasphemy case was registered on May 26 in a police station in Gilgit by a hardline sunni cleric Himayatullah Khan, deputy chief of the anti-shia organisation Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) formerly known as Sipah-e-Sahaba.
— With inputs from AFP