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Islamist Political Party Blocks Pakistani Film On Moral Policing

Authorities in Pakistan have temporarily stopped the release of a movie that tackles moral policing and intolerance in society after receiving complaints by a hard-line Islamist party.

The film, Circus of Life, was approved by Pakistan's censorship board for release on January 24 but came under heavy criticism from the Tehrik-e Labaik (TLP) party. TLP asked the government for a ban and said it would stage a rally against the film on January 21.

"The movie is blasphemous and should not be released at all," said TLP spokesman Pir Zubair Kasuri.

"The movie will be reexamined on February 3," the provincial government of Punjab said in a statement, adding that it made the decision following repeated complaints from different groups.

Filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat said on Twitter that he received "dozens of threatening phone calls" because of the film.

Khoosat's studio has filed a petition in a Lahore civil court against TLP for "trying to interfere into the smooth running, public screening/releasing" of the movie.

Thousands of people supported Khoosat who has also written to Prime Minister Imran Khan over the issue.

A trailer of the film that showed the misuse of the blasphemy law was taken down from YouTube following strong criticism from Islamist groups.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in Pakistan and those accused can become the target of Muslim vigilante groups.

TLP was at the forefront of rioting in 2018 when the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Christian woman Asia Bibi, who had been on death row for eight years for allegedly insulting Muslim prophet Muhammad.

With reporting by dpa and