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Pakistan Bans TV Show of Host Who Stood Up for Minority Group

FILE - Residents look at the house of a family belonging to the Ahmadi sect, which was torched by angry mob in Gujranwala, Pakistan, July 28, 2014.

Pakistan’s media regulation authority on Friday barred a television host from airing his show for speaking in favor of a frequently persecuted minority community in the predominately Sunni Muslim country.

The action by PEMRA came a day after the host, television actor Hamza Ali Abbasi, urged local media not to ignore persecution or killings of members of the Ahmadi community. He made the comments during his special show on the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“Can an Islamic state declare a group Muslim or non-Muslim? Why is it so that when you speak in favor of a suppressed community like Ahmadis, you are also condemned and branded as being part of it?” Abbasi asked his panel of experts during his live show.

A host from another television station condemned Abbasi’s remarks in his own prime-time show. One of his guests, an Islamic cleric, said that “followers of Islam” would take action against Abbasi for committing blasphemy if the state failed to punish him.

PEMRA also banned that host, Shabbir Abu Taleb, and his guest cleric.

Pakistan declared the minority Ahmadi community non-Muslim in 1974 under pressure from Islamist groups that denounce the Ahmadis as heretics for their belief in a prophet after the Prophet Mohammad.

The legislation bans Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslim and practicing the rituals of Islam.

Critics say the ethnic group has since faced daily harassment, intimidation and persecution on the basis of its religion in Pakistan, where critics say religious tolerance has declined in recent years.