World | Pakistan

Pakistan TV show giving away babies

Controversial presenter Aamir Liaquat Hussain hands over abandoned children to two couples

  • By Rob Crilly, The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2013
  • Published: 12:50 July 25, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • A screenshot showing Aamir Liaquat Hussain giving a baby girl to a childless couple on his television show.

Islamabad: Pakistan’s television wars have plumbed new depths in the battle for Ramadan ratings with the country’s most controversial presenter giving away abandoned babies on his prime-time show.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain has presented two babies to childless couples so far during Islam’s holy month. His show’s heady mix of charity, piety and kitsch has made it a hit with viewers but also attracted accusations that he is using religion to generate headlines.

In an episode broadcast last week, Hussain shocked the studio audience by promising the gift of a baby. “This is the beautiful girl who was thrown on a pile of garbage by somebody. See how beautiful and innocent she is,” he said, showing a baby girl to the camera.

He then introduced a shell-shocked couple who were handed the child by the head of a charity that rescues abandoned babies. The tearful wife described the child as a “gift of Ramadan” before her husband described their frustration at not being able to have children.

“These 14 years were full of hardships, people asked to go for second marriage but I remained patient and also asked my wife to be patient,” he said.

The spectacle was repeated for a second time this week. The babies were presented by Mohammad Ramzan Chhipa, who runs the Chhipa Welfare Association. “We have lots of babies that are just abandoned, left in the garbage or other dirty places,” he said.

“Often we just find the bodies so our message that we make is to tell people to bring their babies to us, don’t just leave them.” He declined to discuss how the couples were vetted but said they had previously approached his organisation to adopt children.

Pakistan’s raucous talk shows have huge followings. Controversy is never far away. One TV anchor was sacked after she patrolled Karachi parks, hunting down young couples on illicit rendezvous without chaperones. Another generated headlines by barging into suspected brothels.

The battle for viewers is most intense during Ramadan. Last year Veena Malek — a model perhaps best known for posing nude in an Indian magazine — hosted a rival show, which featured an exorcism. Another programme showed the live conversion of a Hindu to Islam.

Hussain’s Amaan Ramazan, broadcast by Geo, is by far the most popular — despite frequent accusations that the presenter uses the show to publicise extremist causes. In 2008 he was the host of a programme in which Muslim clerics denounced members of the minority Ahmadi sect, saying they deserved to die.

For 12 hours a day during the month of Ramadan he prowls his studio, singing, praying or holding cookery demonstrations in a show described approvingly by some as an “Islamic version of The Price is Right”.

Prizes — ranging from tubs of cooking oil to plots of land, motorcycles and now babies — are showered on an audience drawn from Pakistan’s less fortunate. Viewers call in to donate money around the clock.

Bina Shah, a writer based in Karachi where the programme is filmed, said the stunts came down to a simple calculation of ratings and advertising revenues in a hugely competitive market.

“It just speaks to the commercialisation of everything in Pakistani society including religion,” she said. “And giving away the baby stunt on television was the worst violation of media ethics I can think of.”

Producers of the show could not be reached for comment due to their marathon broadcasts.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is getting its own cartoon superhero to fight corrupt officials and Taliban commanders seeking to shut down the girls’ school where she works.

Burka Avenger, a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial arts skills, uses books and pens to fight the villains and promote education. It is a battle with which Pakistanis are all too familiar in the real world: the Taliban has blown up hundreds of schools in the north-west because they oppose girls’ education. The series will be shown by the Geo network.

Comments (17)

  1. Added 14:53 July 26, 2013

    When we see the real face of Amir Liaqat on youtube, and the way he uses nasty language in it, it clearly shows that ... its just the money and viewership he is interested in.

    khan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 14:50 July 26, 2013

    Irrespective of Aamir Liaquat, weather he is right or wrong, even i personally don't like the way he runs the program, but i have no right to malign him in media, i don't know why gulf news is bothered to bring out this article? and the irony is that the person who wrote this article is not even muslim, how can he discuss & know if aamir liaquat is doing according to islam or not !..... its not fair to discuss an individual from other country in a negative way in international media, when he is not doing any harm to anyone and within the laws of his country, then why others are bothered to make him news ? and that too in his absence where he cannot defend himself !

    Aamir Khan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 11:30 July 26, 2013

    IF YOU AMER LIAQAT IS DOING ANY THING GOOD. YOU DON NOT HAVE USE MEDIA TO SCORE POINTS, YOU ARE HUMILIATING THE CHILD, WHEN SHE/HE GROWS UP EVERY ONE AROUND WILL TAUNT HIM/HER

    SHIBLY, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 11:07 July 26, 2013

    Like most of things there are two dimensions of this issue also. Amir Liaquat is good or bad, we should not discuss in his absence, as this itself is a sin. What he is doing generally by giving away gifts that is also OK despite the fact the at back actual cause is getting higher commerical rating for the show. Giving babies after proper vetting of the adopting couples is also OK, but the faces of the babies and their new parents must not be shown on TV (after mentioning that the child was found in garbage, as this will follow the child and parents for their future life and child will be treated as Taboo.

    Nasir, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 18:48 July 25, 2013

    There is no doubt that these days, commercialism studded with consumerism are the two driving forces behind the media and its so-called players. On top of that, it is also studded with business, financial, political, social, religious and other related vested interests. As they say, "money walks and money talks" everywhere and the print, electronic, digital and HD media is no exception to it.

    Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad, St. Peters, Missouri - U.S.A., United States

  6. Added 18:13 July 25, 2013

    I dont see the point of this article. The gentleman is doing his part as per program. There is nothing wrong in doing good so why the fiasco. If you look at the hardships people in Pakistan we should not sit outside and give our comments. All channels are doing an excellent work in Ramadhan. People who dont want to watch please mind your own business

    Abdul Rahim, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 17:23 July 25, 2013

    Aamir Liaquat may not be good Human Personally but honestly not good means I'm better than him or he actually didn't meet my expectations thats why I dont like him. But my expectations is my fantasy or its really me!!! Think yourself where do you stand. Atleast he is the luckiest person in my view because he is paid highly to do good for others. People hardly get these chances in a life time.

    Syed Naveed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 16:02 July 25, 2013

    I think he is doing good things at least not shooting anybody or blasting bomb only trying to promote good things, so what is wrong. I love to see his program daily and I learn at least one thing good daily from his program.

    Afshan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 15:25 July 25, 2013

    I dont know why everyone is against Amir Liaquat he is doing his job let him do.

    Tahir, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 14:51 July 25, 2013

    so what is wrong in doing it atleast babies are getting a home and love they needed..There is no harm as long as its done in true spirit

    Asghar, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  11. View more comments

Gulf News
News Editor's choice