On Tuesday, December 30, Geo TV sort of apologized for incendiary remarks made on one of its shows against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The clarification, made by the Geo TV spokesman came after a 27 year-old Ahmadi Muslim man was shot dead in Gujranwala, Pakistan. The killing took place on December 27, five days after a show, “Subh-e-Pakistan” hosted by a popular televangelist, Amir Liaquat Hussain was broadcast. Syed Arif Shah Owaisi, a cleric and a guest on the show blamed the Ahmadi Muslims for the Peshawar school attack on December 16 and called the Ahmadi Muslims the “enemy of Pakistan”. In agreement with Owaisi, Hussain nodded and as he faced the audience, which comprised mostly of women, exhorted them to applaud in response to Owaisi’s hateful comment.
This was not the first time that Amir Liaquat’s show enabled the so-called Islamic scholars to appear on his show and openly incite hatred toward the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. In 2008 one of the guests declared that Ahmadi Muslims are “Wajibul qatl” that is, “It is obligatory to kill [Ahmadis]”. Two prominent leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan were shot dead within 48 hours of the show’s broadcast.
After the December 22 broadcast, the Twitter was ablaze with the hashtag #AmirLiaquatSpreadingViolence. Pakistanis living abroad and in the country as well as others across the globe used the social media’s platform to express their anger towards Amir Liaquat Hussain and his employer, Geo TV. Many were angry enough to demand that he should be fired from the network. Several journalists as well as op-ed writers flooded the media and blog sites with their anger and frustration. The television network succumbed to the pressure and issued a statement. The spokesperson for Geo acknowledged that the show had violated the network’s code of conduct. However, he went on to explain that on live program it is difficult to monitor the crowd or control what the guests say.
Saima Sheikh, spokeswoman of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA, condemned the remarks made by Owaisi.
“As a member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, I condemn the comments made by guests on Geo TV’s program “Subh-e- Pakistan” hosted by Amir Liaquat. These comments were false and specifically made to incite violence and further hatred toward Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan,” Sheikh said. “While I appreciate the statement from Geo TV, I think the Pakistani government needs to take firm action to stop further persecution of Ahmadi Muslims and other minorities in Pakistan. It is comments like these from so called Islamic scholars that are the cause of so much violence and killings in Pakistan against Christians, Shias, Hazaras, Hindus, and Ahmadi Muslims,” she further added.
Kashif Chaudhry, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA wrote an “open letter to Geo”, and published a blog on Express Tribune.
“As part of Pakistan’s civil society, and as a responsible citizen of Pakistan, I was very disturbed by Aamir Liaquat’s and GEO’s reckless behavior. A few of us started a petition to press PEMRA to take action against GEO and Aamir Liaquat. The petition gathered over 8000 signatures in 3 days,” Chaudhry commented. “I got a written response from CEO GEO Mr. Imran Aslam, and spoke with PEMRA Chairman on phone (as part of CFD),” he added.
With regards to Geo’s clarification, Chaudhry said,
“There is no doubt the program spread hate speech and violated PEMRA’s code of conduct. GEO acknowledged this fact. Of course, a public apology was in order after this breach of regulations. And I am glad GEO tendered this general apology. However, the allegations of terrorism and being “traitors and enemy of Islam” that were voiced on GEO’s forum affected a specific community. These are no small allegations. As such, GEO needs to apologize specifically to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Pakistan. Responsible journalism would demand that the Ahmadiyya Muslim spokesperson be invited to air his own views and clarify the gross misconceptions that were allowed to air through GEO.”
Saima Sheikh reiterated the stance of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s worldwide leader.
“The Khalifa of Islam, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad in his address on Sunday, December 28, 2014, at the 123rd Annual Convention in Qadian, India, condemned the recent program that aired on GEO Television in which he referred to some so-called religious clerics who sought to openly incite hatred against the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. He said that the clerics did so to shift the blame for Pakistan’s terrorism from the actual terrorists.”
As far as the next steps which need to be taken, Kashif Chaudhry said, “The civil society will continue to press on PEMRA and Prime Minister of Pakistan to take action in accordance with their recent statements and resolve to fight extremism in Pakistan.