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Pak college's editorial board dissolved over blasphemy row

world Updated: Jul 01, 2012 15:40 IST

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Pakistan's first arts college's editorial board has been dissolved and two other departments have been closed, weeks after the institution's annual journal was accused of publishing material that supported homosexuality and ridiculed Islamic values.

The architecture and research and publication departments of the National College of Arts in Lahore have been closed while the director for research and publication, Sarosh Irfani, has been suspended.

Following complaints about the inclusion of some paintings and a feature in the annual journal Sohbat, the college's editorial board too has been dissolved.

The principal of the NCA, Sajjad Kausar, and some other staff are facing charges of blasphemy, official sources told PTI.

With extremist and hardline religious parties, including the Jamaat-ud-Dawah, calling for stringent action against those responsible for publishing "blasphemous materials" in the journal, the college's administration, including the Principal, are feeling insecure, the sources said.

"I have dissolved the editorial board, closed down the research and publication and architecture wings and suspended the director for research and publication," Kausar told reporters.

He said a ban had been imposed on the publication of Sohbat for an indefinite period.

"A four-member committee has been constituted to thoroughly investigate the matter and submit its report to the board of directors of the college," he said.

Strict action will be taken against those responsible for "such gross negligence," Kausar said.

Senior JuD leader Amir Hamza, in a statement, sought strict legal action against those responsible for publishing "blasphemous materials" in the college journal.

A group of college students organised a protest against the writers and publishers of the magazine.

A lawyer named Mumtaz Ahmad filed a petition in a local sessions court which argued that the college's Principal and other members of its administration were liable to be prosecuted.

He said an FIR should be registered under the blasphemy law and the Anti-Terrorism Act for publishing the "blasphemous" material.

Acting on Ahmad's petition, additional district and sessions Judge Sajjad Ahmed directed the chief of Old Anarkali police station to act in accordance with law against the administration of the NCA.

However, police have not yet registered an FIR against the respondents.

"We are examining the legal aspects before we decide on registering a case against the respondents (the NCA principal and other staff)," said a police officer who did not want to be named.