Lahore court did not issue an arrest warrant for Leena Ghani

Ghani has been accused of running a social media smear campaign against Ali Zafar

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Claim: The Lahore District Court has issued arrest warrants for activist Leena Ghani and singer Meesha Shafi in a criminal defamation case registered under the cybercrime law by musician Ali Zafar. Zafar has accused Ghani and Shafi of running a ‘malicious campaign’ against him on social media.

Fact: On 19 February 2022, the Lahore District Court issued bailable arrest warrants for singer Meesha Shafi and journalist Maham Javaid but has not issued an arrest warrant for Leena Ghani. 

Fact or Fiction?

On 19 February 2022, Facebook page The News QM claimed that, “The Court has issued arrest warrants for singer Meesha Shafi and Leena Ghani in social media campaign case,” filed by singer-cum-actor Ali Zafar. 

The claim was also picked up by a handful of Facebook pages, including here, here, here, and here

On the same date, Dunya News in a live bulletin claimed — at the 00:07 mark of this video — that the court had issued arrest warrants for Shafi and Ghani. The video has garnered more than 9,000 views.

Dunya News also posted about it on its verified Facebook page but only mentioned Shafi’s arrest warrant in the post. The headline of the post states, “میشا شفیع کے وارنٹ گرفتاری جاری [Arrest warrant issued for Meesha Shafi].” 

The link in the caption, however, leads to a story on their Urdu website which carried the news with the headline, “سوشل میڈیا مہم کیس: میشا شفیع، لینا غنی کے وارنٹ گرفتاری جاری [Social media campaign case: Arrest warrants issued for Meesha Shafi and Leena Ghani]”. 

The story was also posted on Dunya News’ English website with the headline, “Social Media Campaign Case: Court issues arrest warrants for Meesha Shafi and Leena Ghani.”

Dunya News also shared the claim on its verified Twitter account which has 2.9 million followers. 

Soch Fact Check found the claim to be misleading because Magistrate Ghulam Murtaza Virk of the Lahore District Court issued bailable arrest warrants for Shafi and Javaid, but no warrant was issued for Ghani. 

The arrest warrants were issued in an order dated 19 February 2022 in connection with an FIR lodged in 2020 by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under Section 20 of the The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 and Section 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Nine people, including Shafi, Javaid, and Ghani, were named in the FIR on grounds of allegedly running a social media smear campaign against Ali Zafar following allegations of sexual harassment levelled by Meesha Shafi against the singer.

In his order, a copy of which has been obtained by Soch Fact Check, Virk said, “Let the absentee accused person including the petitioners namely Mst. Meera alias Meesha Shafi and Mst. Maham Javed be summoned through bailable warrants of arrest of Rs.50,000/- each for 19.03.2021.”

The order came after Shafi and Javaid filed pleas for permanent exemption from personal appearance in the case on the grounds that they are permanent residents of Canada and the United States, respectively, and remain busy in their professional engagements outside the country.

While the Magistrate did not issue an arrest warrant for Ghani, he did dismiss petitions filed by Ghani and comedian Ali Gul Pir to dispose of the cases against them. This may explain why the misleading claims state an arrest warrant was also issued for Ghani. 

Virality

Among the top news outlets that carried the story was Express News’ Urdu website that published the news with the headline, علی ظفر کیس؛ میشا شفیع اور لینا غنی کو پیش ہونے کا آخری موقع [Ali Zafar case; Meesha Shafi and Leena Ghani given last chance to present themselves in court]”.

Soch Fact Check conducted a Google search with the search term “لینا غنی کے وارنٹ گرفتاری جاری” and ascertained that the claim was picked up by multiple other websites, including Lahore News, ManzilNews.pk, Urdu Press, and Newspaw.

Lahore News HD and Dunya Entertainment also shared the claim on YouTube. The video on Lahore News HD’s YouTube channel, titled “Breaking News | میشا شفیع اور لینا غنی کے وارنٹ گرفتاری جاری | Lahore News HD”, was viewed by more than 600 people. 

The misleading claim was shared on Twitter as well by different accounts, including here, here, here, here, and here

Conclusion: Reports claiming the Lahore District Court has issued an arrest warrant for Leena Ghani in connection with the Ali Zafar smear campaign case are misleading. In fact, the Court issued bailable arrest warrants for Meesha Shafi and Maham Javaid, not for Leena Ghani. The Court did, however, dismiss petitions filed by Leena Ghani and Ali Gul Pir for the disposal of the cases against them. 

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