The government of Pakistan has not held the presenter of a popular TV program on Geo TV, accountable for stoking the already-prevalent religious hatred of Pakistan’s beleaguered Ahmadi minority, on 7 September, 2008.
Anchor person Dr Amir Liaquat Hussain declared, on air, the murder of Ahmadi sect members to be the religious duty of devout Muslims. He made the statement on Alim Online, a religious affairs program on Geo TV, which is a prominent Dubai-based Pakistani television channel. Hussain urged his two co-presenters to agree, and in a show on 9 September, he repeated the suggestion. In the 48 hours after the first broadcast, two Ahmadi community leaders were lynched and murdered, bringing the total number of targeted Ahmadi killings this year to four. Please see Urgent Appeal <http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/2999/
Hussain, a self-titled doctor, was, ironically, the minister for religious affairs in the Musharraf government. He regularly expresses an open hatred of Pakistan’s minority groups, and his influence stretches far by way of daily on-air sermons and articles he writes for the Daily Jang newspaper, published by the same media house.
The AHRC considers freedom of speech to be an important right, but it also insists on the right of the individual to personal safety and freedom from persecution. That Pakistan allows the use of broadcasting tools to spread direct messages of intense harm and hatred as a religious duty, is utterly disturbing.
Religious intolerance flourishes in Pakistan, and there is very little done to temper the hatred felt by some Muslims for Ahmadi followers, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities. In some cases the government clearly tries to court fundamentalists with its leniency regarding these crimes. The two most recent Ahmadi deaths were carried out in broad daylight, in public, but no arrests have been made. Dr Hussain has not been held accountable in any way, either by his employer or the government.
The AHRC demands that a case be initiated and Dr Hussain be produced before the law. Geo TV must, at the very least, offer a full apology for its involvement in two murderous lynching cases, and must present a new list of broadcasting standards that it pledges to uphold. That religious hatred can bloom so publicly and remain unpunished is an embarrassment to a country that hopes to be taken seriously outside of its borders.