Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs has suspended an influential mufti from multiple Islamic responsibilities, including the sighting of the moon necessary to end the holy month of Ramadan, after Abdul Qavi appeared in selfie photos with Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch.
Mufti Qavi’s interaction with Baloch, whose hair is visible in many of her selfies, has become the subject of such scorn that a regional Pakistani legislature halted discussion on the budget to address the selfies in question.
— The News (@thenews_intl) June 23, 2016
In addition to posting the photos, Baloch claimed that Qavi was not keeping the Ramadan fast and drank a soft drink in her presence.
Qavi claims that Baloch approached him personally and visited him at his hotel to take the selfies.
The photos of Baloch — who was a model, TV personality, and participant in Pakistan Idol before rising to prominence through her selfies on Facebook — with the mufti surfaced on her Facebook page on Monday and have triggered a stern response from Islamic leaders in Pakistan.
“Qavi will not be allowed to attend meetings of the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee and National Ulema Mushaikh Council until further orders. Mufti Qavi’s fate will be decided after the opinion of the National Ulema Mushaikh Council regarding his selfies and behavior,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Religious Affairs said.
The Ruet-i-Hilal Committee is responsible for moon sightings, which indicate the change of month and confirm the beginning and ending of key Muslim holidays. According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the National Ulema Mushaikh Council “consists of members from mainstream boards of religious seminaries… to evolve consensus among different sects from all provinces.”
The legislative assembly in Punjab state descended into chaos Wednesday after legislators insisted on derailing the scheduled post-budget discussion to address the selfies.
Though the PA session was held for the post-budget discussion, a ruling party MPA Waheed Gul asked for permission to speak on Qandeel Baloch’s recent selfies. After being denied permission initially, Gul Waheed started creating a commotion for which the Speaker had him escorted out of the assembly for ten minutes.
It is unclear whether further discussion of the selfies occurred following the incident.
Qavi claims that Baloch called and apologized to him for the incident. She denies this, stating that she tried to call him and he did not answer. In multiple Facebook posts on Thursday, Baloch asserted that her posts were meant to “reveal the real faces” of people in power and that she was “literally feeling alone in the fight.” “If You People Are Happy To Be Part Of Such Type Of Orthodox People & System Who Teach Others But Themselves Lack All Kind Of Values.. Then I Should Not Take Such Steps,” she wrote.
She followed the post clarifying that she was “not two faced as like such people,” using the hashtag “#Things_Will_Go_On_Like_This_Only_Because_Nobody_Is_Ready_For_Change,” an apparent challenge to orthodox Islam.