Aamir Liaquat Hussain, who anchors the "Amaan Ramazan" show, stunned the audience by saying a baby would be given to a couple that was childless for 14 years.
A controversial Pakistani preacher is preparing to give away a third baby to a childless couple on his religious TV show, ignoring criticism that he resorted to the practice to boost the ratings of his programme.
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, 41, anchors “Amaan Ramazan”, a 12-hour show beamed live from Karachi on Geo network during the holy month of Ramadhan, during which prizes like mobile phones and motorcycles are given away to audience members who answer easy questions about Islam.
A few weeks ago, he stunned the audience by saying a baby would be given to a couple that was childless for 14 years.
A baby girl picked from a garbage heap by the NGO Chhipa Welfare Organisation was brought to the show, wrapped in pink, by Muhammad Ramzan Chhipa, chief of the organisation, and Mr. Hussain handed over the child to an emotional woman.
“Promise that you will take care of the child like a real mother,” he told the woman. Another infant girl was given away during a live show last month.
The live coverage of the handing over of the babies created a storm and Mr. Hussain’s critics described it as an unethical move to improve ratings in the highly competitive Ramadhan market.
Undeterred by such criticism, the management of Mr. Hussain’s show has announced he will offer a third child — a baby boy — for adoption to a “deserving couple“.
A statement on Mr. Hussain’s website even exhorts poor families to hand over babies to the preacher so that they can be given away on his show.
“We are not giving infants to winners of a quiz programme as has been portrayed by the international media. Chhipa (organisation) screens the aspiring parents and they decide to give them the children after detailed interviews,” an official of the programme said.
“We want to promote the culture of adoption in a country where there is no law for it,” the official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to media.
But critics are unmoved by such explanations and describe the trend as an immoral and crude attempt to make business out of piety.
“It is not good. If you want to hand over children for adoption, then you should do it silently, without making a show of it,” said Anwar Kazmi of the Edhi Foundation, which has been working on adoption for over six decades.
“By exposing the kids to live coverage, you are creating doubts about their parentage and leaving them at the mercy of people who will taunt them when they are grown up,” Mr. Kazmi said.
Many Pakistanis have taken to Twitter and social media to express their concern and even disgust at the handing out of babies by Mr. Hussain, who has been linked to several controversies in the past.
In 2008, hardline scholars who appeared on Mr. Hussain’s TV show called for the killing of Ahmadis, a minority sect declared non-Muslim through a Constitutional amendment. By the next day, two Ahmadis were shot dead.
Subsequently, authorities declared Mr. Hussain’s university degree a fake and a video showing him cracking lewd jokes, singing Bollywood tunes and making fun of callers to his show during commercial breaks was posted on YouTube.