LAHORE — Acting on Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed's plea seeking a ban on the release of Bollywood movie Phantom, a Pakistani court on Monday issued notices to the federal and Punjab government as well as the censor board asking them to reply to the petition.
Lahore High Court Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan heard the petition and asked the Central Censor Board and the federal and Punjab governments to furnish a reply on Saeed's petition during the next hearing on 13 August.
During Monday's hearing, Saeed's counsel AK Dogar requested the court to issue a stay order but the judge refused.
"It is necessary to hear the respondents first," the judge observed.
Dogar also told the court that "there is a direct threat to the life of the petitioner (Saeed) and his associates emanating from the content of the trailer of the film."
He said the grievance of the petitioner is that the film has been advertised to be exhibited in Pakistan.
The film, which releases in India and various other territories on August 28, stars Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif. Based on crime author Hussain Zaidi's novel Mumbai Avengers, Phantom is set in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and deals with global terrorism.
The film has been directed by Kabir Khan. Interestingly, Khan also directed the recently-released Bajrangi Bhaijaan, which has been hailed as a film that promotes amity between India and Pakistan. The film is a gargantuan box-office success in both countries.
However, his upcoming film seems to be drawing the opposite response from some quarters. "It is obvious that dialogues coming out of the lips of the different Indian actors and actresses will poison the minds of Pakistani public and will portray Hafiz Saeed as terrorist even though JuD has not been declared as a proscribed organisation," Dogar said.
"The United Nations has also admitted that the JuD is a charitable organisation and is working not only in Pakistan but also outside the country," he argued in the court.
Dogar said the movie is scheduled to be exhibited in India and Pakistan on 28 August.
"The government should be restrained from allowing exhibition of this movie in Pakistan," he said.
The petitioner said the Indian film has "venom against Pakistan and JuD."
"The film is about the 2008 Mumbai attack and global terrorism implicating the JuD. Filthy propaganda has been done in the film against Pakistan under the subject of the world terrorism," Saeed has alleged.
Trailer for 'Phantom', directed by Kabir Khan and starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif
The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba claimed that the courts in Pakistan had already rejected the accusation of the Indian government about involvement of the JuD or any of its leaders in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
"I pray to the court to ban the exhibition of Phantom in Pakistan for its anti-Pakistan content," said Saeed on whom the US has placed a bounty of USD 10 million.
So far the Pakistan censor board has not cleared the film for screening in the country.
Since the government allowed exhibition of Indian films in Pakistan, the Censor Board has been careful about not allowing screening of Indian films which deal with the subject of Pakistan, terrorism and ISI.
In the past, Saif Ali Khan's Agent Vinod and Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger were also banned from being screened in cinema halls in the country although they are freely available on CDs and DVDs in Pakistan.
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