Bollywood actress jailed for 26 years for blasphemy
VEENA Malik has expressed her anger and disbelief after she was handed a 26-year jail term by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court for 'malicious acts' of blasphemy.
Her crime? Appearing in a pretend wedding scene, staged on a daytime show broadcast by Geo TV and based on the marriage of the Prophet Mohamed's daughter.
The programme sparked a wave of controversy in the Islamic country when it aired in May, despite the fact similar scenes had been aired in the past to little or no such public outrage. Some even apparently suspected that Pakistan's military were behind the mock wedding, and that it was put on in a bid to wage a blasphemy war against the broadcaster.
Malik's husband, Asad Bashir Khan, and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, the chief executive of the biggest media group in the Asian country, were further sentenced to 26 years behind bars for the apparent religious offence. The host of the show Shaista Wahidi was also punished.
"26 years! Come on. 26 years is a lifetime... But I have faith in higher courts in Pakistan," Malik said in a recent interview quoted by Gulf News.
"When the final verdict comes, it will do justice to me. Nothing bad is going to happen."
The court order will be enforced in the Pakistan-controlled city of Gilgit, which is also part of the India-claimed Kashmir regions.
"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 court order, issued by the judge, reads.
However, Malik may not actually end up serving her sentence.
The court order will be enforced in the city of Gilgit, of which control is shared between Pakistan and also sits in the India-claimed Kashmir region. 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 a hefty jail term, the convicted parties were also ordered to pay a fine of 3million rupees (£8,000), surrender their passports and even sell up their properties.
The court case marks the latest in a string of controversies for the Bollywood actress.
She sparked outrage in 2011 after posing for a series of risqué pictures for Indian FHM.
She was depicted on the front cover of the men's magazine with her arms and legs positioned to cover her private parts.
The letters 'ISI' - the acronym for Pakistani spy service the Inter-Services Intelligence agency - were scrawled on her arm.