KARACHI: Following a nation-wide uproar against controversial anti-Ahmadi remarks made during religious host Amir Liaquat Hussain’s morning show, Geo on Tuesday apologised for the editorial lapse. A spokesperson for the media group admitted that the network’s code of conduct was violated in the December 22 show.
Gunmen in Gujranwala had shot dead a member of the Ahmadi religious minority on Saturday, five days after a cleric denounced the community on Liaquat’s show. Luqman Ahad Shehzad was shot in the back of the head near Bhiri Shah Rehman village – a small community of Ahmadis in the Gujranwala district.
There was no apparent direct link between the two incidents. However, local media and civil society assailed the TV channel and the host of the show for inciting extremism and violence against the often-targeted religious minority.
The Geo spokesperson issued a ‘clarification’ available online today saying that a comment made by a guest during the “Subh-e-Pakistan” morning show had violated the network’s code of conduct. The spokesperson added that “during live transmissions it is difficult to control crowds and guests who speak according to their mindset”.
The spokesperson further said the group apologised for any offensive content, and a committee had been formed to ensure the implementation of policy in the breach of conduct.
Syed Arif Shah Owaisi, the guest cleric had termed Ahmadis as “enemy of Pakistan” during the show.
“This enemy is a common enemy and is an enemy of all of Pakistan. And this enemy is the sect of Qadiyani,” Owaisi said, using a derogatory term for Ahmadis. “They are the ones blaspheming against the holy prophet (pbuh). All us Muslims should recognise that enemy.”
After Owaisi spoke, Liaquat responded by nodding his head in affirmation while the audience burst into applause. The guest cleric went on to use further derogatory language against the minority group for some minutes while the TV show host clapped in appreciation.
Other guests on the show agreed with Owaisi, who also claimed the Ahmadi community was connected to "yahoodis" (Jews).
Blasphemy is punishable by death in the country. Scores of people have been lynched after being accused of blasphemy.
Last week’s killing was the second time Amir Liaquat's show has hosted religious leaders denouncing Ahmadis. In 2008, he hosted scholars who called for the Ahmadis to be killed. Within a day, two prominent Ahmadis had been shot dead.
In today’s statement, the Geo spokesperson said that the network believes in tolerance and had always promoted harmony between different denominations and religions.
“Geo has always spoken out for the rights of minorities which have been provided in Islam and our constitution,” it was added.
The statement noted that Geo had itself been the victim of the misuse of religion, and several members of its team face threats.
Advocating Amir Liaquat’s case, the spokesperson said the TV celebrity had hosted programs on multi-faith dialogue and harmony, with religious communities and minorities having participated more than any other program in Pakistan's television history. It was not mentioned whether a member of the Ahmadi minority had ever appeared on Liaquat’s show.
“Dr Aamir is number one on the hit list of Taliban for his outspoken views against use of violence in Islam,” the statement added.
The spokesman said Geo’s policy is consistent with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) laws and the code of conduct which prohibits inciting violence against any group including minorities in the name of Islam or any other cause.
The spokesperson said the network would fulfill all its legal obligations on the matter as the media regulator has already issued a notice to Geo.