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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis and his father, pianist Ellis Marsalis, perform with their quartet at the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland. They also sit down with "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten to talk about their hometown, New Orleans, and the music on their new recording, “The Last Southern Gentleman.”