What's wrong with Ramazan transmissions?

Maybe 'everything' is the answer you're looking for.
Updated 06 May, 2019

This article was originally published on 8th June, 2017.

Ramazan transmissions have barely begun and within a week PEMRA notices are flying as channels jump into a frenzied competition for ratings.

Putting aside each channel's so-called game shows, the real games are being played by hosts who use one gimmick after another to retain the public’s interest in what has become the high profit point of the broadcasting season.

Let’s start with a small survey of the current controversies brewing.

PEMRA asked producers of Fahad Mustafa's show Jeeto Pakistan to explain why the show started an hour early despite a ruling that game shows must start at 9pm, while Sahir Lodhi has been asked to explain his love/hate for Quaid e Azam.

Also read: PEMRA issues guidelines to TV channels for Ramazan transmissions

While these might be called major incidents, minor skirmishes with what might be termed the boundaries of good taste and the spirit of the season have also been bubbling away under the surface.

In their Ramazan shows Aamir Liaquat and Fahad Mustafa have now started a supremely tiresome game of taking regular, thinly veiled jibes at each other. All of this might have been mildly amusing if they displayed any wit or eloquence but sadly they don't.

The man who last Ramazan force-fed a contestant mangoes, simulated a girl killing herself and was only recently banned for accusing liberal activists of blasphemy and anti-Pakistan activities has just resurfaced with a big game show on Bol TV. This would of course be Aamir Liaquat. His new game show on Bol TV is bluntly titled Game Show Aisay Chalay Ga or “this is how you run a game show”, and is a show where he gives away not just any old car but Mercedes Benzes, houses and of all things small aircraft.

Related: 5 WTH moments from last year’s Ramazan transmissions

Liaquat got straight to the point in his opening monologue; he had a few taunting words for PEMRA, some disparaging comments about cricketers Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar (who have replaced him at his old stomping ground Geo TV) and laid down a gauntlet that he would “eat up” all the other shows. If that wasn’t enough, Liaquat and Fahad Mustafa have now started a supremely tiresome game of taking regular, thinly veiled jibes at each other.

All of this might have been mildly amusing if they displayed any wit or eloquence but sadly they don't.

Money, money, money

Meanwhile their numbers grow and so does the line of contestants willing to participate in increasingly humiliating games and exchanges for a Rs10,000 coupon, or the hope that Aamir Bhai, Fahad Bhai, Wasim Bhai or Shoaib Bhai will hand them the keys to a car.

Also read: Who benefits from game shows and by how much?

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with game shows. When done right they can be a source of good family fun and a comparatively innocuous way to let off a little steam and relax after a long day fasting. Watch a well-conceived game show from any country and the host will gently tease the contestants, setting up light-hearted banter that never crosses the line into disrespect.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with game shows. But in Pakistan it seems as if anything goes, like Aamir Liaquat comparing people's looks to djinns and telling them to get liposuction.

However in Pakistan it seems as if anything goes.

Aamir Liaquat is the worst offender and regularly humiliates contestants; he compared one man’s looks to a djinn and told another to use their Rs10,000 for liposuction on live TV. However offensive he is, he is amply rewarded for this behaviour with the kind of ratings normally seen during India Pakistan cricket matches.

Lost in all this cheap sensationalism is the essence of this month of self-discipline and self-denial.

So who is to blame? Who rewards these people despite their inappropriate behaviour?

The sad truth is, it’s the audience. It’s easy enough to turn the tide against such behaviour, instead of laughing at their lack of manners and railing against these crude displays why not use the power of the remote?

On the flipside if channels are making a profit from the captive audiences provided by this holy month surely they are obliged to keep up standards of appropriate behaviour and responsible programming. Since game shows are not going away… yet, it's time channels hired better writers to help script these shows, so fewer off the cuff comments and spur off the moment mistakes happen.

An even better solution might be to cut down the long running time of these game shows and bring back more sensible programming options. The biggest surprise this month is the lack of drama serials addressing serious issues.

Ramazan is an incredibly special month, when an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims voluntarily abstain from eating and drinking, sacrificing sleep and rest, so why not give them something entertaining and informative instead of the steady diet of mind numbing mush?

There are plenty of well educated, charismatic and well-spoken religious scholars both in Pakistan and in the Pakistani diaspora throughout the world who could lend this season’s programming some much needed depth and gravity but are being ignored in favour of celebrities.

There is an arbitrary separation of before and after iftar, which is understandable to a certain extent. People do want to lighten up after breaking fast but surely standards of acceptable behaviour don’t change just because people have stopped fasting.

Cashing in on religious sentiment

But that would be losing out. After all, hosting a Ramazan show in Pakistan is not only a very lucrative proposition for a presenter, but a magical event when suddenly everything they did the rest of the year is airbrushed away in an ethereal bright, blurry white light.

If you’re a female a dupatta suddenly appears precariously attached to a couple of strands of your hair, while both genders gain the ability to explain religious concepts in a condescending tone to an audience who earn less in a year than that presenter does in a month.

While the sacred month is acknowledged as a time of repentance and forgiveness it always strikes a distinctly discordant note to see normally secular and glamourous stars like Ayesha Omar hold forth on religion.

What else is weird about Ramazan TV? Well, if you’re a female a dupatta suddenly appears on your head, while both genders gain the ability to explain religious concepts in a condescending tone to an audience who earns less in a year than that presenter does in a month.

Actress Ushna Shah recently wrote a critical Facebook post about fake people who “sell" religion during Ramazan or suddenly become overtly pious while acting like jerks the rest of the year. She has even hinted at directors who have tried to hit on her but are now sending out “Ramazan Mubarak” messages.

This kind of hypocrisy Shah has highlighted is nothing new but is particularly offensive and disrespectful in a month where everyday people are struggling to fast through long summer days with huge power outages and rising food prices.

Getting it right should be pretty simple. Why aren't we doing it?

To be fair there are a few decent programming options on TV like Ahsan Khan’s Ramazan show on PTV and so far apart from a few silly incidents Geo’s Ramazan transmissions have been moderate and inoffensive. However the majority have been geared to the lowest common denominator in a month when people are supposedly trying to reach higher goals.

The real question raised by all of these incidents is why can’t channels think of more creative ways of programming than just game shows?

It's absolutely possible for programmers to engage with the spirit of the season with the same zeal that they promote materialism and greed. Ordinary people have called for a boycott of Khaadi, yet those same people are willing to pay thousands for an Eid outfit from another brand that may just follow the same practices. Why not address this issue, or loadshedding perhaps? In fact the very real difficulties of everyday life seem to have been whitewashed out of sight by the shiny glare of all the expensive prizes on show.

Why not visit schools for the disabled, the blind and the poor and distribute a few of those highly prized Rs 10,000 vouchers after iftar there? Instead of giving away cars, why not give away prosthetic limbs to those in need or ask their sponsors to invest in small charity projects that actually make a difference in underdeveloped areas?

Perhaps most importantly: in a month geared towards maximizing worship, how about opening up discussions on tolerance and learning how to deal with religious issues without extreme or violent responses?

How wonderful it would be if these TV shows could highlight and reward the youth and leaders engaged in projects that lift up society and raise awareness about issues like domestic violence and mental health. It was particularly heartening to see a differently-abled presenter on PTV's Ramzan transmission, offering prizes in a wheel chair. This kind of acceptance and inclusivity should be part and parcel of not just this season but the whole year round.

Perhaps most importantly of all in a month geared towards maximizing worship, how about opening up discussions on tolerance and learning how to deal with religious issues without extreme responses?

With the recent public lynching of Mashal Khan and the rising level of terrorist attacks around the world, this Ramazan presents the perfect opportunity to open up discussions about moderation and respectful dialogue by engaging with actual religious scholars.

While there is nothing wrong with giving away grand prizes and having fun, the focus on winning at any cost seems to be pushing important issues and the less fortunate amongst us, already marginalized by society, even further back in to the shadows.


Muhamamd Zohaib Jun 08, 2017 09:18am
Govt take action to terminate Ramadan Transmission because mostly people watch this transmission and miss the trawiyan and do not go proper offering the namaz. dont mind but its is true.
koshar koor Jun 08, 2017 09:22am
I concur. The article is right on spot. Sadly, we are living in a world where everything is business. Ramazan is just an excuse, all the channels are only focused on making money. And the majority who follows everything on Television are not very much aware of the unmindful side of media. And about actors, at the end of the day they are all actors, mostly are only performing to earn money. So they don't hesitate to do any show in Ramazan, even if they are being extremely hypocrite.
Ednan Jun 08, 2017 09:31am
Good article about this nonsense in Ramadan.
Asfandyar Jun 08, 2017 10:02am
Wonderful article. A number of beneficial suggestions, if the tv channels take heed. I agree with the suggestions that the scholars should be engaged as most of the people during Ramadan are looking for some good religious knowledge, that can be used to educate people about Islam, that how it is a religion of peace and not otherwise. One correction though: Shoaib Akhtar is hosting with Waseem Akram instead of Shoaib Malik.
Mrs.khalil Jun 08, 2017 10:08am
Every year during Ramadan , you have one such article , but the most important thing is who will stop such silly tv shows
haris Jun 08, 2017 10:19am
Why can't we have a code of conduct for these programs , if people can go on strike for high fruit prices then they can boycott going to these shows as well.
Shak Jun 08, 2017 10:36am
Concluding remarks are wonderful. Down with pseudo hopes which the glitzy programs try to instill during this holy month.
TAriq Jun 08, 2017 10:38am
This situation shows not only those had weapons in their hand challenge the writ of law of the land but also those who had not the guns but power of media and its self law of land become negligible against them or their own interest are hurdle in containing such open violation of the sanctity of such a noble month of Ramadan.
Tooba Jun 08, 2017 10:49am
Right on point but sadly no channel would give any heed to this kind of transmission as its only a war of ratings...
Riyadh Jun 08, 2017 11:09am
very sad that religious programs in Ramazan have been reduced to may be less than 5% of total air time and more time given to non-Ramazan activities and fun shows
FAKENEWS Jun 08, 2017 11:12am
No one else to blame other than the viewers and participating audience who are begging for freebies. This tells us about the character of our nation who can sell their self-respect for a motor bike or for a car. One wonders how can a nation with these characteristics can flourish and be among the developed and respectable nations.
bossman Jun 08, 2017 11:51am
I hope Sanam Jung has read this. Education does not matter, it's all about money for her and the rest of the hypocrites.
Salih Jun 08, 2017 11:55am
The only and best solution to get rid of these pathetic shows, is the remote control in your hand. JUST switch the channel.
fateh alam Jun 08, 2017 11:59am
Ramazan special programmes,hardly do justice with the importance of Ramazan,instead of lip service we must make people aware about its importance andits impact on daily life the amount and the system of awarding Gifts to audience (karachi special only)conveys disgruntleness on the mind set of audience of other cities of Pakistan,specially for less privelige audience of Baluchistan.AJK,and GB.they are also human being,have feelings and desire to be part of throw away style of Gifts/hampers,the audience in such cities is slowly depleting for the simple reason of being KARACHI privilege audience only
Faraz Jun 08, 2017 12:35pm
The real question should be What's right with this year's Ramzan transmissions? Absolutely nothing. Please read out the benefits of the holy month and compare it to what the people are doing on the contrary.
RAZA Jun 08, 2017 12:52pm
Can't agree more with the writer. Very well written and on the spot article. I agree that TV channels can provide light entertainment during Ramadan, but the focus should be educating the viewers and to promote moderation, humility and unity.
Abdulla Hussain Jun 08, 2017 12:54pm
Right on dot, these shows are creating a negative sensation for the masses. Ramadan is not the month for such activities. I think all such shows should be stopped henceforth. Highly negative competition is going on between different TV channels.
Sameer Jun 08, 2017 01:11pm
This reminds me of a dialogue by Al Pacino that Vanity after all is the Devil's favorite sin.
Sameer Jun 08, 2017 01:12pm
I dont have a television anymore. I think I'd be keeping it that way.
VIN Jun 08, 2017 01:41pm
People do eat and drink during Ramazan but not during the light. Rising in prices means consumption has increased not decreased. Fasting is eating less/not at all during a day. Electricity is not required to keep/have Ramazan.
Questioner Jun 08, 2017 01:47pm
@Muhamamd Zohaib Not that I am denouncing your comment but can't fathom the fact that you think Taraweeh is farz!!!
Questioner Jun 08, 2017 01:53pm
@Mrs.khalil No one will and no one can. Everyone is out there to make many at the expense of cheap publicity and to appeal to masses who are, quite unfortunately, relatively lacking high intellectual standards. The result speak for themselves. It's like majority of artists in the west produce sickeningly inappropriate contents since that is what sells. Very few stick to quality and high standards. Look at the ground reality, are these programs geared toward teaching tolerance, morals and goodness? Nope!!!! Quite unfortunately these are gimmicks to increase ratings, popularity, controversies and in doing so, generating tones of finances.
asif Jun 08, 2017 03:05pm
This is going out of hands. Government should make sure these programs and their presenters are not allowed in Ramadan. People should be educated of cleanliness, Charity, help, brotherhood and tolerance. But I don't blame my simple people, who time and again are mocked at and they simply give a smile without realising what the hell has happened to him or her and that just for a mobile phone.
mohammad H Khan Jun 08, 2017 03:16pm
where are we heading ... Ramadaan is the month of fasting and ibda where those game shows fit in ..who am i is to disagree
Disparate Jun 08, 2017 04:03pm
@Mrs.khalil The writer has already given you the answer. The audience! There is a small button on your TV remote, called Power button. Most of the people would agree with the author but most won't use this tiny but useful button.
Marriam Jun 08, 2017 05:11pm
@Muhamamd Zohaib govt is not responsible for our actions.. be mature and save your time wisely
Anita Turab Jun 08, 2017 06:05pm
You are right but there is a large audience cheerfully gobbling up the humiliation in exchange for money (or the hope of getting some gifts). Sahir Lodhi is another example of such entertainment. Why should PEMRA stop such popular shows. They are similar to vulgar stage shows which keep getting more vulgar at the audience's request. Only difference is these transmissions are meant for rozedaars.
Rebeloasis Jun 08, 2017 06:05pm
Reading a well written, balanced and thought provoking article on DAWN after a long time. Sadaf has written what every reasonable person with an intellectual thinks. Brava
HQ Jun 08, 2017 06:51pm
Basically I have to turn all off. The way presenters and the crew sometime are dressed and then making Ramadan a materialistic month in their shows is disgusting we can not watch it. Instead of simplicity the show sets are grand. I miss the good old PTV days their use to be respect, Calm and Peace now all is show. Where are we taking our society or have taken it already one needs to think!!!
Ahmed Jun 08, 2017 06:56pm
Amir Liaquat is just another example of our cheap national trait. We get what we deserve.
xBlack Jun 08, 2017 08:11pm
Hi, I am sorry for anonymous post but for now i think it is prudent to be anonymous because of the way our society has evolved. About the article, spirit of a month is not created by the month itself, the spirit is actually of the people who celebrate or observe that month. What should be on television? In a free society, television will show what people want to watch watch. Me as an individual has a choice, either to watch it or change the channel. If majority wants to watch those game shows, no one (not even PEMRA) should be allowed to tell people what to watch or tell them how to observe Ramadan. All these issues stem from one issue, Average intelligence. In a democracy where decisions are made by the majority, average intelligence should improve and that will only happen when majority is intelligent.
mu Jun 08, 2017 08:33pm
i don't have any problems with giving out prizes likes cars or bikes, most of these people live hand to mouth and couldn't even dream of buying one. Let them enjoy bec after Ramzan it's gonna be back to the same (monoply driven market and cartels) who suck the life out of consumers. If you’re a female a dupatta suddenly appears precariously attached to a couple of strands of your hair( LOVE THIS LINE). Thanks!
syed ahmed Jun 08, 2017 11:35pm
RAMZAN? it's show & entertainment.
ZAKIR HUSSAIN Jun 09, 2017 01:23am
It's time for us to realize that these game shows are promoting greed in the wholly month. Participants go crazy to receive prizes, such behavior adversely affect the young and immature minds. Children unintentionally get impressed with such attitude and this can cause a very detrimental impact on their personality development. It is the responsibility of the concerned authorities to look into it and do the needful ASAP.
Awaz... Jun 09, 2017 02:13am
Lots of money... Lots of gifts...Have fun!!! Pakistani called Ramazan.
Awaz... Jun 09, 2017 02:14am
@Anita Turab ...Wow... Well Said Anita!!!
GHAIDer Jun 09, 2017 02:18am
Great write by Sadaf Haider, keep up the good work of bringing awareness to us all. @ Muhammad Zohaib- Someone who doesn't want to go for taraweh or pray namaz is not going to be affected if there is no ramazan transmission. Its your personal preference and the hypocrisy can also be seen among people who tend to become religious during this holy month. I personally think that a vast majority of our people have lost a sense where we can differentiate between right and wrong and when majority doesn't care, minority can't do much. I have lived in Pakistan for the first 23 years of my life and what I see on TV during ramzan is totally different and sometime I get disgusted by the show these hosts put on to get fame or ratings.. At the end, we are maturing as a nation at a very slow speed and have losing our values at a much faster speed.
white noise Jun 09, 2017 03:18am
Everything IS the answer, Ramadan is the month of prayers, not looking at manicured men braying for ratings and money.
BRR Jun 09, 2017 04:17am
A bit naive it appears - when crass commercialism is all TVs can offer in 3rd world countries, not salvation. TV offers what passes off sentiments and emotions but not reality or compassion. So please get real with your expectations of the media and the message that makes good money.
Ali Zaidi Jun 09, 2017 04:30am
I wouldn't completely blame to those paid anchor ,Partially is our people who are begging for stuff what are we portraying to our generation . PEMRA should implement limitation on "Ramazan Tranmission"
somia mushtaq Jun 09, 2017 04:52am
PEMRA must take actions against all these channels who are promiting nothing but non religious things. Playing "pakram pakraei" in a Ramzan Show is worst. Apart from the PTV Ramzan Transmission. ARY shan e ramzan is also a good one. I have found it much sophisticated than others. But there ate some shutty things going ON AIR as well to which the authority should consider something. Moreover, these game shows are also giving the message tat entertainment after IFTAAR is more necessary than praying Taraveeh. Participants having the show are wasting their times in playing nonsense games which is against the spirit of Ramzan.
Pakistani Jun 09, 2017 08:29am
Good write up
Vegito Jun 09, 2017 10:18am
@fateh alam complain about Ramazan transmissions, not because of their content, but because they don't come to your city to do their shows?
JKhan Jun 09, 2017 10:26am
A very concise and articulated report by a concerned person and very precise and accurate description of the actual state of these "game shows". Just want to add that men have adopted dresses normally our females wore; the colour part. Our so-called religious scholars are far ahead in this. Look at their dress colours and fancy headgears all full of strange colours and caps with stitching associated with females of a certain class!!
Chishti Jun 09, 2017 10:33am
The simplest answer is just "Dont watch such shows"
JKhan Jun 09, 2017 10:34am
@asif what Government are you talking about Mr Asif?
Marina Jun 09, 2017 12:00pm
@Muhamamd Zohaib i do agree that these programs should be abolished but mainly because of their content as the article well explain. The fact that people go or don't go for taraweeh prayers doesn't have to be the reason behind it. Nobody should be forced into offering prayers. Moreover there are people that are excused from offering salah and they should be able to enjoy some entertainment.
Nina Jun 09, 2017 12:23pm
@Salih but problem is jain to kahan jain? This nonsense is everywhere. Better to switch on BBC iPlayer at Least they do some research and invest some time and money on their programmes
DR BOODHUN Jun 09, 2017 06:53pm
Watch MTA and you will know what the true blessings of Ramadan is actually.
Sadaf Haider Jun 09, 2017 09:21pm
@GHAIDer thank you
jehanzeb khan Jun 09, 2017 09:37pm
If i were a bloke getting rotten on the streets of Bombay my only hope would be Mother Teresa giving me a bowl of soup, rather than Mahatma Gandhi or Jinnah with their visions of a Utopian world. Similarly if PK middle class audience is tired of sodding electricity/water outages and are hanging along with excruciating situation, the only hope for recharge are these game shows. Its easy to criticise anything but its difficult to feel the pain when you can sit happily in A/C and listen to pink floyd LP on your bang & olufssen turntable.
Hussain Jun 10, 2017 04:27am
Only we the masses are to be blamed for popularity of these below standard shows. It is the country where an anchor brings there persons initate fight among them and get good rating. Game show host making fun of people at the cost of cheap gifts. People selling their dignity for ten thousands ruppees. Pemra need to act.
nasr Jun 10, 2017 09:44am
Very Sad and Pathetic. The lust for greed in full display in the month of Ramdan to be said would be true.
Anonymouseee May 06, 2019 11:02am
A very well written article.
hussain May 06, 2019 12:32pm
most if not all these hosts are not alims or alimahs and are just TV pundits and yet during Ramadan they don the headscarves or topi's with such hypocrisy as though they need to be religious for just this one month, how gullible do they think everyone is , or are they the product of a society that does the same.
hussain May 06, 2019 12:37pm
@Questioner I think you missed the point of NAMAZ. tarawi for the majority of Pakistanis is important.
Anon May 06, 2019 12:54pm
Ramzan transmissions are a distraction from the practice and spirit of the auspicious month, where outer restriction is meant to lead to an inner expansion.
Asim May 06, 2019 12:57pm
Our Ramazan transmissions can be made better by not transmitting them in the first place. Ramazan is not for shows, especially not for game shows.
M. Saeed May 06, 2019 01:43pm
It is unfortunate that, we lack the due respect and regard for Ramzan and watch such nonsense and ethic-corruption shows in the name of our Holy Ramzan. It is this very weakness of us that makes millions for these so called high gross game-show organisers and exploiters.
Fahad May 06, 2019 01:48pm
Simple educate your people with 'quality education'.
Anon May 06, 2019 04:32pm
Not interested in seeing these hypocrites.