Pakistani film battles blasphemy censorship

Church official urges government to release movie by award-winning director as pressure mounts
Pakistani film battles blasphemy censorship

Pakistani Islamists hold a poster of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, during a protest against the Supreme Court decision on Bibi's case in Lahore on Feb. 1, 2019. (Photo Arif Ali/AFP)


The Pakistani government has postponed the release of an award-winning film for referring to the controversial blasphemy laws.

Zindagi Tamasha — internationally known as Circus of Life — follows a naat khuan (reciter of religious poems) who is ostracized by the community and family members after a video of him dancing at a wedding goes viral. It was scheduled for release on Jan. 24 in Pakistan.

According to media reports, the first trailer hinted at the misuse of the blasphemy laws. Human rights groups say the laws continue to contribute to the violation of human rights as they are used to settle personal disputes and vendettas without the application of the basic rule of law.

The film’s director, Sarmad Khoosat, and his cast say members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline Sunni group, had threatened them to stop the nationwide release of Zindagi Tamsha, the first Pakistan feature film (fiction) to win an award at an international film festival last October.

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