Pakistani film, labelled ‘blasphemous’ by religious outfit, cleared for release

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Karachi: A Pakistani film that could not be released in January after a religious outfit called it “blasphemous” has been cleared for release in cinema halls by the Committee for Human Rights of the country’s Senate.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who chairs the panel, said in a tweet that they “found nothing wrong” with the film, adding that the censor board “has our go ahead to release it post-Covid”.

He said all objections against the film were dismissed.

The film, “Zindagi Tamasha”, which was premiered at the Busan International Film Festival, could not be released in cinema halls on January 24, after the ultra conservative Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) called for protests against its scheduled release and alleged that it was blasphemous.

The government then stepped in and referred the matter to the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) for a review, even after it was twice cleared by the censor board.

But before the CII could review it, the Senate’s committee took up the matter and said it would only refer the issue to the Islamic council if it found anything objectionable in the film.

Irfan Ali Khoosat, the director of the film, had also filed a petition in a Lahore civil court earlier in the year, praying that TLP activists be stopped from interfering with the release and smooth screening of the film.

The TLP, which contested the last general election, came into the limelight in late 2017 when they blocked the entrance to Islamabad demanding the federal law minister’s resignation and a strict adherence to the country’s blasphemy laws.

Led by the wheelchair-bound Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand conservative leader, TLP activists marched onto Islamabad in 2018 and staged a sit-in demanding that Pakistan sever diplomatic ties with the Netherlands over a controversial cartoon contest by a Dutch politician.

Rizvi and many of his supporters were later arrested in a crackdown and faced trials.

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