Pakistan police investigate former pop star for blasphemy

Pakistan police investigate former pop star for blasphemy

ISLAMABAD - Police in Pakistan opened a blasphemy investigation Tuesday against a former pop star turned evangelical Muslim after he was caught on camera making allegedly disparaging remarks about one of the Prophet Mohammed's wives.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the mainly Muslim country. The law is often invoked against minorities and the poor by those wishing to settle personal scores, according to rights groups.

Junaid Jamshed, by contrast, is a wealthy high-profile member of the Tablighi Jamaat - a Sunni Muslim evangelical organisation known for its rigidly conservative views.

A video of the former lead singer of the 1980s band "Vital Signs" - in which he appears to make negative remarks about the Prophet Mohammed's youngest wife Ayesha to make a broader point about women's inherent flaws - went viral over the weekend and led to the police case.

"We have filed a blasphemy case against Junaid Jamshed in Rasala police station on the orders of Justice Ahmed Saba of the district court," Faheem-U-Din Sheikh, spokesman for the Sunni Tehreek religious organisation, told AFP from the southern city of Karachi.

Muhammad Shafique, a police official at Risala police station in Karachi, confirmed the incident.

Jamshed, 50, had earlier released a video on Facebook in which he admitted he had erred and pleaded emotionally for forgiveness.

"This is my mistake and it happened because of my ignorance and lack of knowledge and I seek forgiveness from the Muslim world," he said.

"I request my brothers to forgive me and I am thankful to them for pointing out my mistake, it happened unintentionally and I seek forgiveness from Allah." Before joining the Tablighi Jamaat, Jamshed was one of Pakistan's best loved pop singers, famous for hits in the 1980s such as "Dil Dil Pakistan".

Now bearded and seen in traditional attire, he often appears on TV adverts to give products a religious endorsement, and also runs a chain of fashion boutiques.

He frequently makes appearances on television, and has previously said women should not drive nor venture out of the home without a male guardian.

The number of blasphemy cases being lodged with police in Pakistan has been steadily rising in recent years. Even unproven allegations often prompt mob retribution.

On November 4 a Christian bonded labourer and his pregnant wife were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown on top of a lit furnace in a crazed reaction to rumours they had thrown pages of the Quran into the garbage.

A Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy has been languishing on death row for four years following a trial that activists say was deeply flawed.

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