| Cherie Blair with an orphaned earthquake survivor at a school in Hattian, 60 km north of Islamabad. (Reuters)
Islamabad, April 8: Movie theatres in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar have been temporarily closed after a “serious” threat by a local cleric.
The threats came as cinema hall owners decided to keep the halls open during the first twelve days of the Islamic month of Rabiul Awwal. Traditionally, cinema halls are kept closed during that period.
“This is done every year to mark the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad, which falls on 12th day of the month...But we had to issue a warning when owners did not close their cinema houses at the advent of Rabiul Awwal nine days ago,” said Maulana Muhammad Yousuf Quraishi.
Quraishi, who is a prayer leader at Peshawar’s central Mohabat Khan mosque and an influential local cleric, told The Telegraph that screening of films during these twelve days is “simply intolerable”.
“It would have put them (cinema house owners) in trouble had they not paid heed to our warning,” Quraishi said as the people of Peshawar prepared to celebrate the Prophet’s birth anniversary on Tuesday.
Quraishi became popular earlier this year when he announced a $1 million bounty on the Danish cartoonist who had drawn the controversial cartoons of the Prophet.
A spokesman of the local cinema houses’ association said the decision to close cinema halls was taken to prevent any incident in Peshawar, which was witness to severe riots earlier this year over the Danish cartoons.
“We want to prevent any untoward incident and decided to temporarily close the cinema halls,” the spokesman Asad Ali said.
The six-party Islamic alliance, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ammal (MMA) rules the North Western Frontier Province where the profits in the cinema hall business has dropped in the last four years.
“Our profit margin in the business has come down since the MMA came into power," Asad Ali said.
Six months after a devastating earthquake hit northern Pakistan, many survivors are returning to their native land but with an uncertain future.
More than 73,000 people died and about 3 million became homeless in the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Pakistani Kashmir and adjoining North West Frontier Province on October 8.
A big relief effort, helped by an unusually warm winter, prevented a second wave of death among the survivors.