The order banning the release of the film in the theatres in Pakistan was issued by Lahore high court judge Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan, after hearing the arguments of Saeed’s counsel and the government law officer. Saeed’s plea had alleged that the Saif Ali Khan-starrer, set on post-26/11 attacks, contains ‘filthy propaganda’ against him and his outfit.
Before issuing a short-order on the film that is scheduled to release on August 28, the judge observed that Indian and other movies were easily available after their release and asked the government what it could do to stop it from being available in the market if a movie is banned.
In the petition filed in the high court on August 8, Saeed’s advocate AK Dogar had alleged: “There is a direct threat to the life of the petitioner (Saeed) and his associates emanating from the content of the trailer of the film.”
“It is obvious that dialogues coming out of the lips of the different Indian actors and actresses will poison the minds of Pakistani public and will portray Hafiz Saeed (also the founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group) as terrorist even though JuD has not been declared as a proscribed organisation,” Dogar said.
In the upcoming Bollywood movie, Saif’s Daniyal is an Indian agent who has a job at hand: to find and kill Hariz Saeed — a thinly veiled reference to the JuD chief who is wanted in India and resides in Pakistan.
The recently released trailer opens with vignettes from 26/11 attack and shows its main preperators — David Headley, Sajid Mir, Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million US government bounty against him, and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.
Arguing in the court, the government law officer said that since no one had sought No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government for the release of the movie in Pakistan, the petition was ‘useless’ and should be dismissed. “The petitioner is unnecessarily trying to involve the government,” he said.
Based on crime author Hussain Zaidi’s novel Mumbai Avengers, Phantom is set in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and deals with global terrorism.
The Pakistan censor board had yet not cleared the film for screening in the country. Since the government allowed exhibition of Indian films in Pakistan, the board has been careful about not allowing screening of Indian films which deal with the subject of Pakistan, terrorism and ISI.
In the past, Saif Ali Khan’s Agent Vinod and Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger were also banned from being screened in cinema halls in the country although they are freely available on CDs and DVDs in Pakistan.