Dr Aamir Liaquat: Defamation of faith's Dr Jekyll
Indeed, during the days of Ramazan nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and the frighteningly charming and inveigling presence of Aamir Liaquat on our TV screens.
What do we know about Aamir Liaquat?
We know Liaquat brews a stew of savagery and sophistication. In one fell swoop, he can sauté his guest. We saw this in 2008, when Asian Human Rights Commission filed a petition deeming Liaquat’s cajoling and coaxing as having led to the killing of two Ahmadis, Pakistan’s most persecuted minority.
We know that his admirers come in all shapes, sizes, income brackets.
We know that Liaquat can acquire academic degrees at a more accelerated rate than the average student – securing a PhD degree reportedly three weeks after obtaining a Masters degree, just in time to contest 2002’s general election.
But perhaps that is no cunning trick of his own; after all, the degree-issuant university, The Trinity College and University of Spain’s website reads ‘get your degree today’ - quite literally.
We know that Liaquat’s reputation suffers from selective emphasis. That he recognises the perfect business synergies between his likes (religion and its power over people) and his dislikes (the Pakistani cricket team’s failed attempts at victory), and he sets about turning the one into the other (blaming the cricket team’s misgivings on the fields to the green-colour soles lining their sneaker’s - green being a color oft-associated with and venerated by Islam).
And now, following the leaked, beguiling YouTube clip, rapidly circulating amongst Pakistanis, both in and out of the country, we have more revelations on Pakistan (and Pervez Musharraf’s) favourite Islamic preacher and televangelist.
Without questioning the authenticity of the video itself - we now go to bed at night secure in the knowledge that Liaquat is a normal, flawed human like the rest of us.
That he swears like a sailor like many of us.
That he often vaingloriously fusses over his shiny mane of hair like those of us with hair.
That, like some of us, he is prone to channelling his pre-on air jitters into a rapturous burst of song - much to the obvious chagrin of his seemingly terrified guests.
That, during discussions of heightened sensitivity, like many of us, Liaquat too cannot curb his unease, and instead bursts into awkward laughter.
We also know that Liaquat (like many of us?) ne Ghalib dekhi huee hai.
As expected, two days after the expose, Liaquat took to his show with a reply to the video and its allegations.
Pointing a covert finger at ex-employer, while admonishing the cunning intricacy of those who ‘beautifully’ dubbed and edited the whole thing, Liaquat conducted a sermon on destructive jealousy (hasad).
Irrespective of the value of fact vs fiction war that now begins, really, the leaked behind-the-scene footage comes as no real surprise.
Many a time in the past, TV’s most notorious televangelist has shot himself in the foot (also occasionally, almost in the head) with his rhetoric and with his actions.
Who is to blame?
The current era of Pakistani television is conducive to far too many flaws, whether it’s a case of media-regulating body PEMRA being guilty of barely enforcing its code of ethics -- or a case of TV anchors passively watching their guests bicker and enforce their private agendas, oft-times comprised of dangerous, incendiary polemic.
The current era is also conducive to a case of fallen heroes.
Without naming names, many the admired politician, actor, and athlete has been publicly defamed. The boundaries between the personal and the professional frequently blur, leaving the individual collecting shards from the mud of their lives, all the while profusely apologizing to the nation and to their loved ones.
But maybe the onus rests on us, the citizens who not only tune into the lives of these celebrity-figures but also place them on this mighty pedestal – so high and so easy to fall from, and to fall hard.
If it is true that the media is a reflection of the state and her people, then the Aamir Liaquat controversy speaks volumes about us.
So, a message to a normally vociferous nation: this is no time to remain reticent. If Liaquat, your fallen hero, has left you jaded then moments of private reflection and healing may be in order.
If this expose has incited much anger in you, then vent your frustration by lodging that PEMRA complaint against Liaquat.
If you find this whole episode as a source of sheer, top-notch amusement, then go forth wickedly and wildly tweeting the #GhalibFilmDekhiHaiAapNe Aamir Liaquat meme every chance you get.
But why insist on pinning values, morals, and exalted actions on celebrity-figures that many of us so obviously lack in ourselves? Why ask of others to uphold terms and conditions that we ourselves repeatedly fail to uphold is a shameless case of hypocrisy.
The truth behind the Aamir Liaquat video lies forever hidden. It is fragmented and embedded in the many pixels of video footage and will soon be converted into yet another conspiracy theory (one of us Pakistan’s favourite pastimes).
Yet perhaps, the most important thing we know now is that Liaquat (demon? doppelganger? split personality? – whatever his identity may be) - simply does not fall high in the hierarchy of concerns-currently-plaguing-the-nation.
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