The Islamabad High Court (IHC), in its ruling on the case of implementation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) code of conduct for Ramzan transmissions and morning shows, ordered shutting down the gift shows of the likes of ‘Neelam Ghar’ and those depicting a ‘circus show’ during the holy month.
The court order, a lengthy directive filled to the brim with guidelines for the broadcasting authority, states that “no programme suggestive of containing lottery and gambling, even apparently for a noble purpose like tickets for Hajj or Umrah etc shall be promoted to air either live or recorded”.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who had taken a strong exception to the conundrum-filed shows hosted by anchors including [and especially] Dr Amir Liaquat, Sahir Lodhi and Waseem Badami, said in his statement that the shows would be meted punishments in accordance with the penal provisions, should they continue with ‘airing or spreading obscene, indecent and immoral’ content during the holy month.
Further directives stated that: “No activity in individual or collective capacity of any citizen can be allowed which is against the glory of Islam, integrity, security or defence of Pakistan, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court. It is responsibility of the State to provide an atmosphere in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. As such indecency, morality and obscenity of any kind and nature is against the injunctions of Islam and offensive to guarantees provided by the organic law of the country ie. the Constitution.”
The committee has been further ordered to file a report on the swift implementation of court directives on the completion of the first ashra (10 days) of Ramzan.
The judge, warning the aforementioned hosts of a lifetime ban, said that they needed to maintain decorum while in such transmissions during the holy month, elsewise face a stringent ban tailored for such anchors.
“Dr Amir Liaquat introduced the culture of romping around [during Ramzan transmissions] and all others have started imitating him,” he noted. “We will not allow such things in sehr and iftar transmissions,” he asserted.
Commenting on the issue of analysts of religion springing up in the holy month, the bench observed that only foreign experts were invited to sit and ramble on when cricket matches were the rage. However, when it came to comment on religion, ex-cricketers and even artists were permitted to appear on TV shows and speak on such a sensitive topic.
“Only religious scholars holding no less than a PhD degree should be permitted to speak on such subjects and separate instructions would be issued to eight channels falling under the terrestrial broadcaster, Pakistan Television,” Justice Siddiqui said.
“If discussions against institutions can be censored, then why can’t discussions against religion be censored?” he wondered.
“What a strange spectacle it is, that hamds, naats and recitation of the Holy Quran are being aired in sync with music,” the judge noted.
Today, Pemra’s director general operations presented a report in court on the matter which said that only three channels have been airing the call to prayer.
He informed the court that action was being taken against all channels violating the regulatory body’s code of conduct.
Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) counsel Ali Zafar told the court earlier that all channels have been operating as per the Constitution and Pemra’s code of conduct. He requested the court to refrain from issuing a “general” order, and instead to direct Pemra to ensure implementation of its code of conduct.
Justice Siddiqui also asked who is airing Indian channels in Pakistan, and ordered a report to be submitted on the matter in court.
The judge had then reserved his decision after hearing the arguments from Pemra, PBA and Paksat all of whose representatives were present in court today.