Pakistani Televangelist Is Back On Air, Raising Fears

Credit: NPR via Wasim Sroya.

Aamir Liaquat, 41, is one of Pakistan's most famous and controversial TV hosts. During the holy month of Ramadan, he broadcasts live for 11 hours a day while fasting and drawing record audiences. Back in 2008, remarks he made about a religious minority in Pakistan were followed by a wave of deadly violence. He was fired — and recently rehired.

Courtesy of Geo TVAamir Liaquat, 41, is one of Pakistan’s most famous and controversial TV hosts. During the holy month of Ramadan, he broadcasts live for 11 hours a day while fasting and drawing record audiences. Back in 2008, remarks he made about a religious minority in Pakistan were followed by a wave of deadly violence. He was fired — and recently rehired.As Pakistan’s media has expanded in recent years, there’s been a rise in Islamic preachers with popular TV call-in talk shows. And they’ve had their share of scandal. One famous TV host fled the country after embezzlement allegations. Others are accused of spewing hate speech.That’s the case for Pakistan’s most popular televangelist, Aamir Liaquat, who’s just been rehired by the country’s top TV channel despite accusations that he provoked deadly attacks in 2008.Liaquat, 41, is once again the face of Pakistan’s biggest and richest private TV station, Geo TV. He also appears in commercials for everything from cooking oil to an Islamic bank. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he’s been broadcasting live 11 hours a day — while fasting — and drawing record ratings.”I say peace be with you, from the deepest core of my heart, with all sincerity and respect,” he says warmly to viewers.

But the beaming TV personality has not always sounded so benign. Four years ago, Liaquat did an hourlong special on a religious sect known as the Ahmadis. They consider themselves Muslim. But under a constitutional amendment in Pakistan, they are banned from calling themselves Muslim.They believe in the Prophet Muhammad. But they also believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th-century figure they believe was the messiah. Many Muslims call that blasphemy.

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