Pakistan Bans Ramadan TV Shows for Debating Sectarian Issues

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Popular TV star and television host Hamza Ali Abbasi
The show hosted by popular TV star and television host Hamza Ali Abbasi was taken off air by PEMRA

The regulator PEMRA ordered both channels to cease the programs from Friday evening or face being shutdown

LAHORE (AFP) — Two Ramadan shows broadcast by private news channels in Pakistan were taken off air Friday by regulators for discussing blasphemy laws.

The channels, ‘Aaj News’ and ‘TV One’, were said by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to have violated its code of conduct by promoting sectarian views and disgracing the holy month of Ramadan.

“An immediate ban has been imposed on TV One’s programme Ishq-e-Ramazan (hosted by Shabbir Abu Talib) and Aaj News program Ramazan Hamara Iman (hosted by Hamza Ali Abbasi),” a PEMRA statement said.

The regulator ordered both channels to cease the programs from Friday evening or face being shutdown.

In his show earlier this week, actor and activist Hamza Ali Abbasi discussed the alleged oppression of the Ahmadi community and blasphemy laws.

The discussion triggered debate on social media, while Islamic cleric Allama Kokab Noorani threatened Hamza with “terrible consequences” for raising the topics.

Pakistan has extremely strict laws against blasphemy, including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammed(peace be upon him), and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Ahmadis, who believe that the founder of their sect was a prophet, were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974 and now suffer discrimination and violent attacks.

PEMRA said it took action after receiving 1,133 complaints in four days.

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