Pakistan's Top Televangelist Aamer Liaquat Husain Commercializes Eid and Ramadan
"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them." Aamer Liaquat Husain, Popular Televangelist and Show Host of Pakistan's GeoTV
Aamer Liaquat Husain's Amaan Ramzan is the highest rated TV show in Pakistan. It attracts sponsor-ships and advertisements from successful companies in Pakistan which are willing to pay top dollars for a slice of its viewers' attention and business. These advertisers see the festive Ramadan and Eid season as crucial to boost their annual profits and sales.
Downplaying the commercial success of his show, Aamer Liaquat insists that "it is not commercialization, it is not showbiz. It is real Islam. I am the religious icon of television" according to an AFP report.
Aamer Liaquat's show is no ordinary TV production. The show is set in a massive wedding hall at a Karachi hotel. It is bedecked with advertisements for a variety of products competing for space with pictures of camels and palm trees. Its a variety show featuring Islamic quizzes, Quran recitations, cooking, religious songs, and lots of prizes and Iftar dinner for over 500 guests, including hundreds of women and children.
|GeoTV Host Aamer Liaquat (L) and ARY TV Host Junaid Jamshed (R)|
ARY TV, a competitor of Geo TV, has responded to Ramzan Aman show by its own show which features Junaid Jamshed, a celebrity rock star who gave up his singing career and grew a long beard as a sign of religious piety.
|Source: Aurora Magazine|
Pakistan's rising middle class has helped spawn a mass media revolution in the country. It is driving consumer spending and advertising. Television ads capture 56% of total advertising revenue in Pakistan. TV ad revenue for 2011-12 added up to Rs. 21.6 billion (US $210 million), up 16% from the prior year, according to Dawn's advertising Aurora magazine. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class has expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future". Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to Bloomberg.
Many in Pakistan cringe at the thought of crass commercialization of occasions like Eid and Ramadan both of which have special religious significance for Muslims. To me it is just an indication that the corporate-owned media business in Pakistan is evolving along the same commercial lines as its western counterparts have decades ago. It is, of course, a matter of grave concern to me and others who see the combined power of money and media as an unwelcome influence in shaping public opinion and government policies.
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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Science Club (PSC) has launched beta version of Pakistan’s first science, technology, innovation and educational television, Techtv.pk, which will be fully functional by August 14.
Pakistan PSC President Abdul Rauf told APP that with the launch of this channel, people would be able to access significant amounts of information with reference to any topic in a short time through different programmes.
He said today television has become an important part of people’s life as a source of information, entertainment, a great tool for learning and education, and communications.
Many different programme genres have been used to address diverse audiences for a variety of formal and non-formal learning purposes with scientifically measured results, he said.
Abdul Rauf said the channel would air educational programmes in all subjects, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and zoology, offering an excellent opportunity for young people to learn.
“In remote villages, it will help spread education to willing students through distance learning. Educational television will educate masses on hygiene, literacy, childcare and farming methods or on any topic related to day to day happenings,” he said.
PSC President said Techtv.pk would cover all events from Pakistan related to science and technology and educational activities.
It will also offer free online courses of web application development, DIY (do it yourself) projects, project management and other science and technology topics.
He said Techtv.pk also has an entertainment category with science fiction movies, cartoons and science entertainment programmes.
The channel will cover science and technology educational activities in addition to popularising the subjects through disseminating the relevant information and latest progress to students and common people.
Rauf said this television channel can prove to be very useful, easy to access at anytime from anywhere and users can access a significant amount of information with reference to any topic in a short time regardless of geographic barriers, allowing them to consult different points of view as well as hands-on experience through different DIY (do it yourself) projects.
The channel will use interactive and innovative programmes for this purpose that cover topics of science, chemistry, physics, education, technology, DIY projects, e-learning, documentaries, news, interviews, events, experiments and entertainment.
“The main objective of this web TV is to promote scientific culture and the youth’s interest in science, technology and innovations. The channel would also popularise science for laymen and students, seeking to cultivate the spirit of scientific inquiry and the love of learning in its audience,” said Abdul Rauf.
In Canada’s Arctic, summers are marked by a bright light that bathes the treeless tundra for more than 20 hours a day.
For some, it’s a welcome change from the unrelenting darkness of winter. But for the small but growing Muslim community of Iqaluit, Nunavut, life in the land of the midnight sun poses a singular challenge during the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims typically fast from sunrise to sunset.
“I haven’t fainted once,” said 29-year-old Abdul Karim, one of the few in the city who has fastidiously timed his Ramadan fast to the Arctic sun since moving from Ottawa in 2011. This year that means eating at about 1.30am before the sun rises and breaking his fast at about 11pm when the sun sets.
“The only reason to stop would be if it hurts my health,” Karim said. Pointing to his sizable frame, he laughed as he added: “But looking at my condition, I don’t think fasting will hurt me.”
As the end of Ramadan draws near for Muslims around the world, much of the holy month’s focus on community work, prayer and reflection has been a constant in communities around the world. But in Iqaluit and the other Muslim communities that dot the Arctic, the long days have forced a shift in how the element of fasting is approached.
Most in Iqaluit adhere to the timetable followed by Muslims in Ottawa, some 1,300 miles south of the city – a nod to the advice of Muslim scholars who have said Muslims in the far north should observe Ramadan using the timetable of Mecca or the nearest Muslim city.
It still means fasting for some 18 hours a day, said Atif Jilani, who moved to Iqaluit from Toronto a little over a year ago. “It’s long days, but more manageable.”
Many in the 100-strong community break their fast together, gathering in the city’s brand new mosque – completed in February amid temperatures that dropped as low as -50C with windchill – for nightly potluck suppers. As they tuck into traditional meals such as dates, and goat or lamb curries, the sun shines brightly through the windows.
It’s a scene that plays out across Canada’s northernmost mosques during Ramadan, as Muslim communities wrestle with the country’s unique geography.
The 300 or so Muslims in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, have several options when it comes to fasting during Ramadan, said Nazim Awan, president of the Yellowknife Islamic Centre, with exceptions made for those who are pregnant or ill.
“There might be some superhumans who want to fast for 23 hours, but the other option is to follow the intent and spirit of fasting by following nearby cities, or they can follow the times of Mecca and Medina.”
In recent years, much of the community has opted to follow the Ramadan timetable of Edmonton, in Alberta. Some, such as Awan – a father of two young kids, including a 12-year-old who recently started fasting – follow the timings of Mecca. He hopes to encourage his son with the more manageable timetable of about 15 hours of fasting as compared with about 18 hours in Edmonton. “If I fast Yellowknife or Edmonton times, my son might say, Papa, you are really insane, what are you doing?” he said.
It’s particularly true for those like Karim who have determinedly followed the local sunrise and sunset. But his efforts will be rewarded years from now, said Karim, thanks to the lunar calendar. Ramadan will eventually fall during winter, which in Iqaluit sees the sun rise and set within a few hours each day. “I’ll follow those hours too,” he said with a laugh. “Oh yes, definitely.”
Munizae Jahangir: " The Geo-ARY debacle was perceived to be a proxy war between the establishment and the government of Pakistan."
The case failed to draw that much attention but, as 2016 drew to a close, a court in London convicted the owners of ARY News of slander and libel and awarded $3.7m in damages to the plaintiff, Geo TV.
What set this case apart was the fact that a British court was ruling on a squabble between two of the biggest media players in Pakistan.
The very public battle between Geo TV and ARY has been characterised as a low point for the Pakistani news media.
The TV news sector in Pakistan has exploded in size in the 15 years since the days of only one, state-owned domestic channel. But the quality of the journalism often gives way to sensationalism and irresponsible reporting, and, in this case, reckless accusations of blasphemy.
Some see the conflict between Geo and ARY as a kind proxy war for a larger struggle, involving the Pakistani powers that be - over who really controls the country.
The Listening Post's Meenakshi Ravi reports on a slightly complicated media story that reveals much about politics and power in Pakistan.
"The competition was rooted in how well the channels themselves were performing ... but over time, it morphed into something way more ugly, way more public," says Sadaf Khan, director of programmes, Media Matters for Democracy.
April 2014 marked a turning point in the competition between the two channels.
An attempt on the life of Geo News' most prominent anchor, Hamid Mir, put the journalist and his channel on a collision course with the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI. Mir had reported extensively on the agency and said he was convinced it was behind the attack.
This wasn't the first time the ISI was accused of targeting a journalist.
In 2011, investigative reporter Saleem Shahzad was kidnapped and then found dead in northeast Pakistan. Shahzad had documented three warnings from the ISI, letting him know his work had put him on their radar.
Now, three years later, the Mir case put the lingering issue of alleged rogue operations of the ISI back in the headlines, and ARY waded into the debate.
When ARY backed the ISI, it ostensibly aligned itself with the intelligence community and the military - the Pakistani establishment.
Geo, on the other hand, was seen to be allied with the elected government.
READ MORE: Pakistan's Geo News channel taken off air
"The Geo-ARY debacle was perceived to be a proxy war between the establishment and the government of Pakistan," explains Munizae Jahangir, senior anchor and executive producer, AAJ Television.
ARY News made it personal by accusing Geo TV owner Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman of taking money from Indian intelligence and using it to defame and discredit Pakistan.
Such accusations can get you killed in Pakistan.
"One of the main allegations was that we had run this campaign for peace between India and Pakistan, which was a media-led campaign - The Times of India, and The Jang Group had come together. This was completely an initiative that was funded entirely by ourselves - we had absolutely no funding from any international organisation, let alone intelligence agencies, and, and yet, continuously, documents were waved on the screen," says Geo TV president Imran Aslam.
"The editorial stance taken by our channels on various issues are different ... However, if you work on the behest of any government or you ally yourself with a government, then your journalism is flawed and the Jang and Geo group's output are perfect examples of this," says ARY News host Arshad Sharif.