The crew of a news TV channel in Pakistan’s Islamabad was beaten up by Muslim clerics at a mosque and their camera equipment also broken. Their crime — a crew member allegedly drank water inside the mosque during fasting hours. Currently, the Islamic month of Ramzan is under way during which Muslims abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk.
A report in The Express Tribune on Wednesday said the crew was of Pakistan’s Din News channel that had come to cover an event. The cameraman named Rashid Azeem visited the nearby Haqqania Masjid to offer afternoon prayers.
The report said Rashid was performing ablution in the mosque when the cleric confronted him. He questioned why Rashid wasn’t fasting during Ramzan and drinking water instead. After both got into a spat, Rashid’s crew members came to the mosque to his rescue and this led to a commotion.
Rashid said the crew took out their cameras to record outside the mosque and it enraged the clerics and students. They thrashed Rashid and broke his camera.
The report said the clerics allegedly prevented other journalists who were in the vicinity to not shoot the scene. It cited eyewitnesses saying the clerics, after taking photographs of the Din News crew members, threw stones at their news van.
The news crew escaped from the location and took refuge at the nearby Margalla police station and filed a complaint. Two clerics from the mosque went to the police and admitted that they broke the camera of the crew. They said the squabble began when they tried to stop the crew from drinking water during fasting hours.
“They were not observing fast and I tried to stop them,” head cleric Israrullah told Margalla SHO Ilyas Mekin, according to The Express Tribune report. He told the police that after the commotion inside the mosque the crew went to offer prayers and he went outside to the market and upon returning found the lot beating his brother.
“When my brother stopped them, they manhandled him and started beating him. When I saw this I took their camera and smashed it,” he said.
The crew refused the clerics’ claim that they drank water and said that the clerics were not in the right to assault them and smash their equipment. Both the crew and the clerics have filed complaints against each other. Around 10 unidentified suspects were booked on the TV crew’s complaint on counts of issuing threats, damage to property and wrongful confinement.
The report cited officials as saying that both sides can be booked–the clerics for assault and the crew for breaking the Ramzan sanctity law. Pakistan has a Ramzan sanctity law called the Ehteram-e-Ramzan Ordinance which, among other things, bars eating or drinking food, water or any edible consumable in public during Ramzan fasting hours. The law carries a punitive element as well which entails a monetary fine as well as imprisonment for up to three months.