The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday granted some relief to controversial anchorperson Dr Amir Liaquat by allowing him to appear on television shows, but upheld a Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) decision to suspend his Ramazan TV show on Bol TV.
On May 25, the electronic media watchdog had slapped a 30-day ban on the television host and politician for creating "unwarranted drama" on religious matters during a segment of his programme aired last Friday.
Pemra had noted that Dr Liaquat "merely for creating sensation and in order to achieve maximum rating" had created "unwarranted drama on the basis of religion and hurt the sentiments of different sects and the public at large".
After inciting sectarian animosity, Dr Liaquat had "quit the show, leaving the live platform for the guest ulemas who exchanged quite harsh arguments", the notification had observed.
Pemra had found that the show's content violated Section 20(b), (c) (f) of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 among others, noting that Dr Liaquat "is misusing/abusing the platform without adhering to the provisions of Pemra rules".
The watchdog had said that instead of showing restraint on a sensitive matter, the host had continued to criticise religious beliefs without considering the consequences of "such an unwarranted discussion".
The regulatory body had subsequently not only barred Hussain from appearing on any TV channel in Pakistan for a month, but also suspended the broadcast of all programmes hosted by him on Bol TV.
Hussain, however, challenged the Pemra directive in the high court.
Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, who heard his plea, ruled that Pemra could not impose a blanket ban on an anchorperson since the regulatory body only has the power to take specific broadcasts off air.
The court ruled that, therefore, banning an anchorperson did not fall under Pemra's authority.
Further hearing in this matter has been adjourned till June 8.
Not the first ban
It is not the first time that Dr Liaquat has been accused of spreading discord and hatred in the country and subsequently faced sanctions.
In January 2017, Pemra had banned Dr Liaquat programme after he had levelled allegations of blasphemy — which has lethal consequences in most cases — against 'disappeared' civil society activists and bloggers. The abductees were later absolved of any wrongdoing.
In December 2017, he was again barred — this time by the Islamabad High Court — from making any appearances on TV after a petitioner had accused him of "handing out fatwas (religious edicts) on kufr (cardinal sin) and treason, which have put the lives of a number of people in danger".
Earlier, in 2016, Pemra had barred Liaquat from hosting Ramazan show 'Inam Ghar' on Geo Entertainment for three days following an episode in which he had distastefully re-enacted the suicide of a girl.
In 2013, he had sparked outrage by 'giving away' babies to childless couples during live coverage of his Ramazan transmission. He had defended his actions as 'charity'.
In 2011, a controversial behind-the-scenes video was released via social media showing the presenter using vulgar language and speaking crassly with his companions during different instances of his religiously oriented show.
In 2008, Dr Liaquat was widely criticised after he had hosted a TV show during which he, along with others, passed hateful comments against a minority community and discussed their murder as an act of religious duty. The show was followed within days of its airing by the murder of two people belonging to the said community.