News / Arts & Entertainment

Babies Given Away Live on Air in Pakistani Talk Show

A childless couple kisses their newly adopted daughter, Fatima, whom Pakistani television talk show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave them on his show, as they sit at the Chhipa Welfare Association office in Karachi, Aug. 1, 2013.
A childless couple kisses their newly adopted daughter, Fatima, whom Pakistani television talk show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave them on his show, as they sit at the Chhipa Welfare Association office in Karachi, Aug. 1, 2013.
Reuters
Pakistani television is showing what many call its most controversial content yet in a ruthless quest for ratings: a talk-show host who gives away babies live on air.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a bespectacled 41-year-old with a neatly trimmed beard, gave away two abandoned infant girls to childless families last month and plans to give away a baby boy this week.

“If we didn't find this baby, a cat or a dog would have eaten it,” Hussain proclaimed during one broadcast, before presenting a tiny girl wrapped in pink and red to her new parents. The audience erupted with applause.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of the Geo TV channel program "Amaan Ramazan", gestures while asking participants questions during a live show in Karachi, July 26, 2013.Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of the Geo TV channel program "Amaan Ramazan", gestures while asking participants questions during a live show in Karachi, July 26, 2013.
x
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of the Geo TV channel program "Amaan Ramazan", gestures while asking participants questions during a live show in Karachi, July 26, 2013.
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of the Geo TV channel program "Amaan Ramazan", gestures while asking participants questions during a live show in Karachi, July 26, 2013.
Hussain is one of Pakistan's most popular talk-show hosts. During his marathon broadcasts he cooks, interviews clerics and celebrities, entertains children and hosts game shows.

He usually gives prizes like motorbikes, mobile phones and land deeds to audience members who answer questions about Islam.

But at the beginning of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when television stations battle fiercely for ratings, Hussain astonished Pakistan when he presented two families with babies.

“We were told that we had passed all the interviews and had been selected to adopt a baby,” said Riaz Uddin, 40, an engineer. “We got our baby on live TV.”

The abandoned babies were rescued by the Chhipa Welfare Association, a Pakistani aid organization.

“In a day or two, the next baby will be given away, God willing,” its head, Ramzan Chhipa, told Reuters on Thursday.

While the Chhipa teams scour the garbage dumps and other sites for discarded newborns, Hussain is also appealing for babies directly.

“If any family cannot afford to bring up their new born baby due to poverty or illness then instead of killing them, they should hand over the baby to Dr. Aamir,” a notice on his website reads. The children would be given to deserving couples on air, the notice said.

The show's producers did not return Reuters calls seeking comment. It was not clear if poor families wishing to keep their children would also be helped.

Fighting for viewers

Many Pakistanis expressed disgust that abandoned babies were being given away in what they see as an attempt to boost ratings. Chhipa insisted thousands of people wanted a baby and all potential parents were properly vetted.

The true outrage, he said, was the poverty forcing families to abandon children.

Hussain's show is one of many such broadcasts. The Pakistani media has flourished over the past decade or so following the liberalization of the industry, particularly broadcasting, after decades of tight state control.

Now, instead of battling state restrictions, presenters fight for audiences and advertising by seeing who is most outrageous.

Recent episodes include a female anchor stalking couples in a park to challenge their morality, and a news program which once ran a live broadcast showing a staff member bleeding to death in an operating theater after he was shot in a riot.

Even among this company, Hussain stands out. In 2008, he hosted scholars who called for the deaths of Ahmadis, a persecuted religious sect in Pakistan. Within a day, two prominent Ahmadis had been shot dead.

The year before, he had to resign from his post as junior minister for religious affairs after denouncing author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy, a crime punished by death in Pakistan.

Since then, his university degree has been exposed as a fake and a video showing him making crude jokes with clerics between takes of his show has leaked onto YouTube.

“There is nothing they won't do to get viewers,” said  comedian Sami Shah. “If I was a cynic, I'd say this can only end badly. But since I'm a realist, I'll say it's already ended terribly.”

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Trumpeter, percussionist and bandleader Etienne Charles was born in Trinidad and blends island rhythms with modern jazz. He and his stellar band perform a rich gumbo of jazz, calypso, reggae, and rock-steady that Charles calls “Creole Soul” on "The Hamilton Live."