Pop singer-turned-preacher flee Pak after blasphemy probe

Pop singer-turned-preacher flee Pak after blasphemy probe

Junaid Jamshed, a pop star-turned- preacher and televangelist facing probe for his alleged blasphemous comments, has fled Pakistan and has no immediate plans to return to the country.

The Karachi police opened an investigation against Junaid after a video that went viral showed the 50-year-old evangelist allegedly making some blasphemous comments.
His comments were described as blasphemous by different religious groups and the Sunni Tehreek has been holding protest demonstrations to demand he be booked for blasphemy.

The former singer, who was part of the pop band Vital Signs, is presently in hiding in London and has no immediate plans to return to Pakistan, a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat said.

The former pop star, who gave up singing in 2004 after joining the Tableeghi Jamaat - a Sunni Muslim evangelical organisation known for its rigidly conservative views - has since apologised for his comments and asked for forgiveness from the Muslim community.

"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, adding, "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".

His critics, however, are not relenting and Mohammad Mobin Qadri, a Sunni Tehreek leader, said this was "irrelevant" and his apology would be considered only after he surrenders to the police.

"He must answer for his blasphemy and he has to be arrested first under the blasphemy law which is applicable to everyone and anyone," Qadri said.

Maulana Tariq Jameel, who is associated with the Tableeghi Jamaat, also appealed for forgiveness for Junaid, whom he described as a "servant of Islam".

The former singer is maintaining his innocence, but looked devastated after the controversy. "I never thought I would ever receive so much pain from the people of my country," he tweeted.

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 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 Koran into the garbage.

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