Pakistan TV's Aamir Liaquat Hussain must apologise for 'hate speech'

Aamir Liaquat Hussain gestures during a live show in Karachi, Pakistan, 26 July 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Religious broadcaster Aamir Liaquat Hussain is a controversial figure in Pakistan

Pakistan's media regulator has ordered a controversial televangelist to apologise on air for hate speech.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain had accused liberal activists, bloggers and journalists of blasphemy and treachery.

He and the Bol television channel which broadcasts his show have until the end of the month to say sorry to those he accused - or be taken off air.

Such allegations can incite murder in Pakistan, where blasphemy is a crime that can result in the death penalty.

Even the suspicion of blasphemy has seen victims attacked and in some cases lynched by mobs.

Chasing ratings: Analysis by the BBC's Ilyas Khan in Islamabad

Many say Aamir Liaquat courts controversy as a way of gaining popularity. His recent outbursts are seen as a tactic to catapult a nascent news channel into the public eye.

As a televangelist, he has been popular with Pakistan's increasingly conservative urban housewives and his shows have topped the ratings in terms of advertising revenue.

Geo TV has been one of his recent targets, as have been a number of journalists, authors and left-wing social activists, some of them linked to Geo. He has accused these people by name of offences that range from blasphemy to treachery and fornication.

So far, Bol TV's management has been able to fend off efforts to take the programme off air. Can it continue to do so? For now, it seems Aamir Liaquat either stands by his words and risks a ban or he tenders an inglorious apology and lives to fight another day.

Read more

Image copyright AFP
Image caption There were protests over the disappearance of bloggers who Mr Hussain criticised

The regulating body, Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (Pemra), has been investigating Mr Hussain since January after it received hundreds of complaints against his show, Aisay Nahi Chalega (This is Not Acceptable).

Among others he accused were five liberal bloggers who went missing for several weeks after criticising the military.

Bol TV went to the courts and won the right for the programme to stay on air.

The channel now has until the end of March to pledge in writing that it will not broadcast hate speech in future. It must also pay a fine of 1m rupees (£7,600: $9,540) within 15 days.

No stranger to controversy

Image copyright Reuters

Aamir Liaquat, a former lawmaker, was criticised in 2013 for handing out babies to childless couples during a live TV broadcast.

He insisted at the time that the move was aimed at saving abandoned infants and was not simply an attempt to boost his ratings.

Aamir Liaquat, who describes himself as "truly a legend" on his website, said: "We were already top of the ratings before we gave away a baby. We took these children from the garbage, from the trash, and delivered them to the needy people."

In September 2008, Aamir Liaqat dedicated an entire programme to exploring the beliefs of the Ahmadis, a sect who identify themselves as Muslim and follow the teachings of the Koran but are regarded by orthodox Muslims as heretical.

In it, two scholars said that anyone who associated with false prophets was "worthy of murder".

Within 24 hours of the broadcast, a prominent member of the Ahmadi community was shot dead in the small town of Mirpur Khas.

More on this story