The menace of hate speech on TV needs to be countered

It is astounding how people like Aamir Liaquat are given a free hand to spread hate on national television

Since our society is divided into many prejudiced fractions, it loses control over its actions regarding its own welfare. The extremists with their radical thoughts on religion have been creeping out and reaching the tools of mass information without any hindrance.

Radicalization through extremist ideas is rampant in our country, whilst the currency of wisdom seems to be worthless in buying rationality.

Just recently Maulana Abdul Aziz, the cleric of the infamous Lal Masjid, was acquitted in a death threat case because there was insufficient evidence against him.

He is a well-known Taliban apologist, who played an important role in attempting to define the good and bad Taliban in the past, while countless innocent lives were becoming victims of indiscriminate terrorism.

Such merchants of hatred represent the menace of the hypocrisy that prevails among the lowlife Pakistani clergy that have turned their religious practices into a business. But they are allowed to air their views with little responsibility and no accountability.

Another cold reality that greatly saddens me is that none other than the so called intelligentsia, who control the means of mass information, are presenting these charlatans as an authority on religious affairs.

Not so long ago, a thug from the streets of Karachi was suddenly given limelight with the title Doctor of Islamic studies by a famous private media house of Pakistan, merely to gain maximum TRPs (Television Rating Points). The media house couldn’t guess that the monster they were creating would come back to haunt them.

I speak of Aamir Liaqat who was thrown out of PTV for being too rude to become a newscaster and whose doctorate degree was also declared fake by authorities.

But for that private media group the man translated into massive ratings for the kind of theatre he could present before the audience in any given guise.

Now sitting on the hot seat of a TV channel, whose owner allegedly faced jail and the wrath of many media house owners in the past for his aggressive tactics, this fake doctor runs a programme where he sells conspiracy theories and shameless lies about people in an apparent bid to settle scores with their opponents and to please the new masters.

The man who was promoted by the so called 'biggest media group of the country' as a religious scholar, and then later introduced as a show host, is now trying to become a journalist just like many other quacks in our media industry, who dropped into this profession when the electronic media boom hit Pakistan during the Musharraf era.

This so called anchorperson was running his show in line with his counterpart in India Arnab Goswami, a similar figure who believes that taking sides and ranting before live cameras in the loudest possible voice, is called journalism.

I was surprised no one noticed how Amir Liaqat praised the Pakistani actress and dancer Reema because her family hosted him at their place in USA with a generous ‘amount’ of hospitality, but defamed Sheema Kermani for her stance against the disappearance of innocent Pakistani people.

The good news is that PEMRA has banned him from being on the TV. This action to leash such slavish stooges, who blindly follow instructions without giving a second thought to the fatal repercussions that remain unquestioned, is commendable.

However, we are yet to observe the outcome of such a ban, because PEMRA is considered an inefficient body when it comes to controlling the on-air substance, which can spark rage and fury by the laws it subscribes to.

As he does not operate alone in this vicious circle of inciting hatred, we often feel proud of the facts given by ‘senior’ commentators like Orya Maqbool Jan, such as when Europe was going through the Dark Ages we were thriving and basking in the glow of progress and cognitive development, and that West is close to its destruction due to the massive wave of ever present “immorality”.

Let’s draw ourselves out from the past. The past does not exist anymore. Stop bragging about what we were and see how you have abashedly lowered yourself by spreading hatred in the name of religion and patriotism.

The story does not end here, because this unrestrained mouthpiece and the likes of him are actually shaping the opinion of the Pakistani people.

Such quacks that are merely projecting communal hatred in the society are giving respect and opportunities to turn the given generosity into high earnings for their masters.

Such ‘scholars’ were engaged in propaganda against the missing bloggers – who have finally been recovered – for merely talking about human rights violations in Pakistan, which is quite an open secret.

Knowing the government’s stance on this issue, this campaign of hatred against these bloggers should come to a halt. But instead it has surfaced once again with full force to counter the government stance and to agitate the people for challenging it, which can certainly translate into a security threat for these activists.

According to the Constitution of Pakistan Article 153-A¸ part XV, 295 and 298 of Penal Code deal with the punishment for promoting hatred between religious, racial, lingual, or regional groups, cast and community; other offences relating to religion such as destruction, damaging of defiling any place of worship or any abject held sacred by any class of persons, uttering a word or making gesture with the intention of hurting religious feelings of any person are also included.

But by Zia-Ul-Haq’s application of Hadood Ordinance, and Bhutto’s declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims, the application of these already existed laws in a manner that only Muslims seem to enjoy this constitutional protection.

Minorities such as Christians, Hindus and other sects of Islam (especially Shia and Ahmadis) are subjected to humiliation and inhuman treatment while extremists, who are nothing more than half-baked scholars, are busy infusing their rigid and bigoted thoughts into the minds of the gullible youth of Pakistan.

As for Aamir Liaqat maligning others for merely having opposite opinion, it is nothing new. Hence a non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued against him. But it remains to be seen how this matter proceeds.

In a country like Pakistan where ideas are being manipulated and later laid down as tradition, laws and social norms according to one’s comfort, it’s quite usual to defame someone with the allegation of being a blasphemer. There is no known proof whatsoever which can prove these allegations against the missing activists.

But still if there is any relation between this hypothesis and the living entities then it should be interrogated in broad daylight rather than in dark cabins.

Aamir Liaqat, Orya Maqbool Jan and similar opinion leaders remind me of Macbeth’ first and second witches:

When the hurly-burly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won

And surely we don’t want to lose this battle of good will of our country and its citizens into the hands of these witches.

Khadija Khan is a journalist and commentator based in Germany. You can follow her on Twitter @khadijakhanlodh

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