ISLAMABAD: Clerics at a mosque in Islamabad thrashed the crew of a private television channel and broke their camera on Tuesday after a member of the team allegedly drank water while he was in the mosque.
Staffers of Din News told The Express Tribune that they had gone to cover an event in Sector F-8 when their cameraman Rashid Azeem went to the Haqqania Masjid to offer Zuhr prayers.
The mosque is built on the green belt along Faisal Avenue near the Faisal Mosque.
Rashid said that he was performing ablution when a cleric at the mosque approached him and asked him why he was drinking water and not fasting. According to Rashid, the two got into a spat. Perturbed by the commotion, Rashid’s co-workers joined him in the mosque.
The cameraman said that when they took out their cameras to record outside the mosque, its clerics and students became angry and beat up Rashid and smashed the crew’s camera.
The clerics also allegedly forcibly prevented other reporters who were passing through from recording a video of the scene. The Express Tribune’s reporter was also threatened with violence for recording the altercation.
According to eyewitnesses, the clerics also took photos of all the Din News crew members and threw stones at their van.
The crew had to take refuge in the nearby Margalla police station where they filed a complaint with the police.
Later, two clerics from the mosque approached the police station and told officers that the altercation had occurred after they tried to stop the news crew from drinking water during fasting hours. They also admitted to breaking the camera.
“They were not observing the fast and I tried to stop them,” head cleric Israrullah told Margalla SHO Ilyas Mekin.
Israr said he then left for the market and the crew went to pray, but after that they began recording outside the mosque.
“When my brother stopped them, they manhandled him and started beating him. When I saw this I took their camera and smashed it,”
The newsmen, however, claim that none of them drank water and even if someone did, the clerics had no right to beat them and break their equipment.
Both sides filed complaints with the police against each other, while cameraman Rashid, who was allegedly beaten, was sent by the police to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) for a medical examination.
Officials told The Express Tribune that people from both sides could be booked: the clerics for assaulting the media team and the TV crew for violating the Ramazan sanctity law – the Ehteram-e-Ramazan Ordinance, which carries a Rs500 fine and three-month imprisonment.
The police registered an FIR on the TV’s crew’s complaint and booked around eight to 10 unidentified suspects for issuing threats, property damage, and wrongful confinement. However, no arrests had been made till this report was filed.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2017.