A Lahore sessions court on Monday acquitted actor Saba Qamar and singer Bilal Saeed in a case concerning the alleged desecration of Wazir Khan mosque, ruling that the charges against them were “groundless”.
Additional Sessions Judge Malik Muhammad Mushtaq set aside the order passed by a judicial magistrate on March 2, stating that it was “not sustainable in the eyes of the law” and accepted Qamar and Saeed’s acquittal pleas.
In March, a judicial magistrate had dismissed their acquittal applications in the same case after which they had filed an appeal in the sessions court.
In an eight-page detailed verdict released today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Judge Mushtaq said the investigating officer did not find any evidence to suggest that the two intentionally damaged, defiled or disrespected the place of worship.
“Rather, they being artists, joined the shooting with prior permission from the Auqaf department and religious affair[s] department, government of Punjab, Lahore,” the verdict said.
The judge added that the requisite fee was deposited before the recording took place at the mosque while the entire shoot occurred under the supervision of the department concerned and according to the terms and conditions of the license obtained from the Auqaf department.
“During the investigation of the case, no music player was taken into possession,” the judge observed, adding that all the witnesses were not present at the alleged place of occurrence and had seen the clip on social media.
“So nothing has come on surface that [the] petitioners played any song at the place of worship, therefore, in my view the charge against the petitioners would be said as groundless, and when the charge would be groundless, there would be no need [for] the trial of the case,” the judge said.
Qamar and Saeed became the center of criticism in August 2020 after it emerged that they had shot footage inside the historic mosque while working on the video of a song.
Subsequently, Akbari Gate police had registered a case against the duo under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) following a court’s direction to act on an application filed by Advocate Sardar Farhat Manzoor Khan as per the law and decide whether a cognizable offence was made out.
The section deals with the offence of injuring or defiling a place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class. The complainant had contended that the duo trampled upon the sanctity of the mosque.
In October 2021, the duo was indicted in the case. However, they had pleaded not guilty and decided to contest the trial. Earlier this year in March, a judicial magistrate had dismissed the duo’s acquittal pleas following which they had filed an appeal in the sessions court.
During the trial process, Qamar and Saeed had also apologized for the incident and issued explanations that shed further light on the video shoot’s context.