Pak­istani mil­i­tant seeks to ban Bol­ly­wood ac­tion film

The China Post - - ARTS - BY MU­NIR AHMED

A Pak­istani mil­i­tant leader with a US$10 mil­lion bounty on his head over his al­leged in­volve­ment in the 2008 Mum­bai terror at­tacks now has a new tar­get: a Bol­ly­wood film that imag­ines him be­ing as­sas­si­nated.

In a twist wor­thy of a movie it­self, a lawyer for Hafiz Mo­hammed Saeed wants to ban the up­com­ing film “Phan­tom” from be­ing shown, ar­gu­ing it is In­dian pro­pa­ganda meant to hurt the im­age of Pak­istan abroad.

But be­yond the chore­ographed may­hem of the film’s imag­ined, per­fectly coiffed In­dian spies, the movie’s premise lays bare the anger still felt over the Mum­bai at­tacks that killed 166 peo­ple, in­clud­ing six Amer­i­cans, as well as ten­sions be­tween the two nu­clear-armed ri­val coun­tries.

“I am sur­prised and amused that a wanted ter­ror­ist has gone and filed a pe­ti­tion,” film di­rec­tor Kabir Khan re­cently said, ac­cord­ing to the Press Trust of In­dia news agency. “He is the one who is spread­ing hate agenda and he is op­pos­ing the film, with­out even know­ing what the film is about.”

Spy re­venge films are noth­ing new, like “Zero Dark Thirty” fo­cus­ing on the U.S. spe­cial forces raid in Pak­istan that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden or “Mu­nich,” the Stephen Spiel­berg film on Is­rael’s re­tal­ia­tory as­sas­si­na­tions of Pales­tini­ans over the 1972 Olympic Games at­tack by Black Septem­ber.

In “Phan­tom,” based on the novel “Mum­bai Avengers” by S. Hus­sain Zaidi, In­dian spies tar­get those be­hind the Mum­bai siege, a three-day rampage that saw gun­men at­tack two lux­ury ho­tels, a Jewish cen­ter and a busy train sta­tion in In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal.

But un­like the novel, which used pseu­do­nyms for those ac­cused of plot­ting the at­tack, “Phan­tom” ap­par­ently names Saeed, as well as Amer­i­can David Coleman Headley, who was sen­tenced to 35 years in a U.S. prison for his role in plan­ning the siege.

Author­i­ties in the United States and In­dia blamed the mil­i­tant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, long be­lieved to be used as a proxy by Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence agen­cies against In­dia in the dis­puted Kash­mir re­gion, for car­ry­ing out the Mum­bai as­sault.

Saeed, who founded Lashkar-e-Taiba, now runs the char­ity Ja­maat-ud-Dawa, which In­dia says is a front group for Lashkar. Saeed de­nies hav­ing any links with the mil­i­tancy now.

The fact Saeed is named in “Phan­tom” puts him at risk, lawyer A.K. Dogar told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The movie’s “trailer shows that this film is against Hafiz Saeed and has posed a se­ri­ous threat to his life,” Dogar said. He wants “Phan­tom,” due to be re­leased Aug. 28, to be banned from show­ing in Pak­istan. He’ll ar­gue his case be­fore a La­hore court on Thurs­day.

Saeed re­mains free in Pak­istan to ad­dress crowds and lead anti-In­dia protests. Pak­istani author­i­ties once briefly de­tained Saeed, who has a US$10 mil­lion U.S. bounty on his head.

Seven other sus­pects re­main on trial, though the at­tack’s al­leged mas­ter­mind, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, has been free on bail since April. A sus­pected Pak­istani spy ser­vice con­tact for the group, known as “Ma­jor Iqbal,” also has yet to be iden­ti­fied or cap­tured.

That con­tin­ues to anger many in In­dia, in­clud­ing “Phan­tom” star Saif Ali Khan.

“Amer­ica struck Osama right in his home,” Khan growls at one point in the film’s trailer. “Why can’t we do the same?”

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