Dear PEMRA, why can’t Hamza Ali Abbasi talk about the plight of Ahmadis without being threatened or banned?

Published: June 19, 2016
Email

To Abbasi’s credit, by initiating a conversation, he was only trying to raise awareness in the most peaceful and logical way possible. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

Pakistan is the land of topsy-turvy, where the righteous are punished and the wrongdoers thrive. In what is a thoroughly perplexing decision, The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) imposed a ban on Hamza Ali Abbasi’s Ramazan program.

What was his crime?

To open a dialog on his show on the plight of one of the most viciously persecuted minorities in Pakistan, the Ahmadis.

Not a few days ago, Hamza Ali Abbasi asked why Ahmadis were treated so poorly in the country and why we were so afraid to talk about it:

“The community is being suppressed but if you talk about it, people say ‘You’re from that community that’s why you’re saying this. “I am not an Ahmadi, I am a Sunni Muslim.”

To Abbasi’s credit, by initiating a conversation, he was only trying to raise awareness in the most peaceful and logical way possible. He was not threating war. He was not preaching violence. He was just trying to talk.

Shockingly, this resulted in a horrific reaction from a right-wing mullah, who came on television and openly threatened Abbasi’s life. In hindsight, this shouldn’t be so shocking. Can we expect any more from the unregulated religious leaders who lack the mental strength to engage in non-violent discourse? Who make up for their lack of intellect by reacting with threats? Yes, the more threatened they feel, the more disempowered they feel, because they lack the intelligence to engage with those that disagree with them with words.

But if anything, it is PEMRA’s command that is more disappointing. Instead of censuring this mullah for openly preaching bodily harm on another person, they have gone after a man for expressing his opinion.

According to Dawn, in a statement issued by the regulatory body, PEMRA said:

“It had received 1,133 complaints through Whatsapp, Twitter and telephone calls regarding the transmissions.”

OK, but so what? Does PEMRA exist to make the right decisions, or does the body exist to make any decision if it is under pressure? Has PEMRA just revealed that the righteousness of its decisions depends on how strong the mob mentality is? Should PEMRA base judgments on what is right, or should it needlessly give importance to a group of self-righteous ignoramuses? How does this country move forward when every other person in authority lacks the testicular fortitude to stand up for what is correct?

Let’s just do a quick recap of the state of affairs in Pakistan:

1. The man who threatened Abbasi hasn’t been banned by PEMRA, but Abbasi has.

2. Although the police have taken action against Hafiz Hamdullah for his behavior against Marvi Sirmed, there has been no news of him being banned from television.

3. Maulana Sherani, the leader of Pakistan’s most powerful Islamic Council, who ruled in favour of child marriages and men beating their wives, actually is not qualified for his job and replaced Dr Khalid Masud, who was a PhD from Mcgill University.

4. Recently, PEMRA banned condom ads from appearing on television before eleven at night, clearly under the belief that no one has sex in Pakistan, and we are just overpopulating as if by magic.

5. PEMRA issued a notice to a drama about child abuse in Pakistan called Udaari, as the body believes that as far as important social issues are concerned, the head must be buried as deep in the sand as possible.

In Pakistan, Ahmadis are tortured and murdered every year for their faith. This is only because they were born differently, and through no fault of their own. At the very least we should be able to talk about it openly.

Apparently, we should just pretend it doesn’t happen.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • NDA

    It was not accidental that Hamza was trying to tackle an innocent subject. It is an issue of religious sensitivity. It is political . Does Hamza have background and knowledge to tackle this sensitive issue without causing colateral damage. No. Pemra was right in asking to stop the show.Recommend

  • Juan

    They also banned 2 documentaries recently, one on Laal Masjid, ‘Among the believers’, the other on Quetta’s Hazaras’ plight, ‘Besieged in Quetta’.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/1094187/after-maailk-central-censor-board-bans-two-documentary-films/Recommend

  • Lets look at logic

    Anyone who is not a Wahabbi or a Deobandi is a threat to the land of the pure.Recommend

  • Sami

    Our Emaan is so endangered that a small question or discussion of some group could endanger it.
    Usually this type of attitude is shown by those who have weak arguments.Recommend

  • Mohamed Boodhun

    The government creates a controversial issue by playing God with the fundamental rights of a section of its citizens and then expect none to talk about it !!!!Recommend

  • Sami

    First of all Religion is not a property of some scholar. This type of thinking is infused into the minds of Pakistani population that ordinary people have no right to interpret Quran and Hadees. This notion then conveys more power to the religious elite.

    If you read Quran and Hadees then it is clearly mentioned that it is for the entire mankind. So if Quran allows every person to interpret and read the book then who are we to say that someone has no right to talk on any issue. ?

    Hamza, me and every human being ( I repeat every human being) has the full right to not only talk but interpret the all Holy Books. You are infact Disregarding the teachings of the Holy Quran and rejecting its verses by Claiming that “Ordinary people cannot interpret the Quran”, whereas the Quranic verses claim that is made easy so all mankind can understand.

    Also regarding to the Religious sensitivity i disagree with you. The reason is that Banning a Religious minority discussion is against the Fundamental Human rights. This type of Attitude is unacceptable in the Modern World.

    Freedom of Religion is the basic right in the developed world. The third world country like Pakistan will have to accept it sooner or later.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Wow… so a head of Islamic ideology council should have been a Phd from anywhere except from a Madrassah.. and we should all talk about sex be it with condoms or with teens consented or not. As we are all Allamas in Religious and social morality Fiqh we should all propagate the ideas of the leftovers and rollover.Recommend

  • wb

    When my neighbor aunty started vomiting, having heart burns and skin rashes, my neighbor uncle started applying cream on her skin for months thinking that it will go away.

    A few weeks later, she was diagnosed by a proper doctor as having cancer and it was too late to treat and she died.

    To be honest, that uncle was not idiot to believe that curing rashes will cure her. But, he was too afraid to admit there was something terribly wrong, because he would be faced with guilt, deep horrifying responsibilities, deep financial problems and it could have completely ruined him into oblivion.

    You clearly know which neighbor aunty I’m talking about and right now she has already been diagnosed with cancer and she’s in a dying stage.

    Yet, here is Noman Ansari, applying cream on rashes. Is it because he’s afraid of taking the name of the cancer for it will ruin him completely?

    Most certainly yes.Recommend

  • wb

    Don’t worry darling. Wahabis and Deobandis are a threat to each other. Sometimes listen to Christine Fair and Ajit Doval.Recommend

  • wb

    Right. To tackle bigotry, you need deep knowledge of what? What is this thing that is causing this bigotry? And it clearly looks like you’re the one that is going to cause this collateral damage.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Mullah has poisoned your mind with hate.You should see Mullahs with background as to how low they can get in their speech and action.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Why can’t? Because PEMRA like everybody else in Pakistan is taught from the same textbooks,taught in same schools/madrassa,and hear sermons from the self-same mullahs.Mullah is pure poison for Pakistan.His favourite subject is women and hoors.
    And in a society like this,only women like Marvi Sermad have the required “testicular fortitude’ to stand up to the moronic mullahs.Men turned into hijrhas long time ago.Recommend

  • http://pukhtunkhwatimes.blogspot.com/ Waqar.M

    No, You are wrong, where is the freedom of expression ? Is PERMA proving to the World that ISLAM IS NOT THE RELIGION OF TOLERANCE, why religious people are so hypocrite, is it true then that there are too many contradictions in Islam and the Quran? Mr. Hamza did not say anything wrong, he did not criticize Islam, Muslims living in non Muslim countries ask for their sharia laws and expect the non Muslim countries to respect month of Ramadan but Muslims don’t have tolerance when it comes to other religious groups, Ahmadi are Muslims whether someone likes it or not, I was born & raised as a Sunni Muslim but glad I quit religion in high school.Recommend

  • Agha

    Are you for real? Hamza was asking the scholars the question about Ahmadi issue. He wasn’t just talking on his own. Either way everyone should be free to ask questions of serious import regardless of their background. What a sad and pathetic argument.Recommend

  • Agha

    And what collateral damage are you talking about? If its mobs threatening violence then its the mobs that should dealt with iron hand. Pakistan has been giving free hand to religiously violent lunatics. They should be locked up not banning someone who is using words. Sort out your priorities for god’s sake.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Anyone speaking truth have to drink a bowl of poison in pakistanRecommend

  • Wajahat Shafi

    wat a background needed to discuss oppression of certain community?he wa sNOT tackling it dear, he was asking so called ULEMA how to tackle it ,we need u to tacle sensitive issue, and y it is sensitive to talk abt oppressionRecommend

  • ahmed

    What nonsense. Hamza has right to speak about any issues he wishes to discuss, it is his right to free speech. I salute him for having the courage to speak for a highly educated community who has been marginalized and criminalized for no fault of their own…if Bunch of ill informed and uneducated heretics make a law it doesn’t make it right…what if any other religious group make Muslim religion followers to be criminal which wouldn’t be unjustified considering recent history…How about america shutting down all mosques after having 50 innocent people slaughtered by a cold blooded killer. I wish a few moulvis who utter nonsense on tv could have been among them so world could become a better place for rest of us. It is about time that educated people stand up in Pakistan and else where and let Pakistan and other heretics led countries answer for crimes against humanity. I would ask everybody reading this to do something about…these criminal need to stopped not Ahmadis but for all of us…Okarvi need to be put in jail for his crime of inciting violence against Abbassi…These lunatics can’t talk sense with anyone … other day on tv Hafiz slaps a female …this need to stop.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    “To open a dialog on his show on the plight of one of the most viciously persecuted minorities in Pakistan, the Ahmadis.”

    Just a matter of time before the Shias would be craving for a dialogue on their plight, what an irony, a Shia created Pakistan out of his intolerance for a faith practiced by his ancestors and the followers of his sect are running for cover in the very nation he is called the Quaid.Recommend

  • Kickass

    Hamza is sick and does not know what he is writing. He appears to be a presstitute. This word has been created for the likes of him. Its in the Dictionery.Recommend

  • Gp65

    Do you have to be an Allama to question persecution and murder?Recommend

  • Abdullah Ghayur

    Dear Noman Ansari the question Hamza asked initially was not about their rights. The question he asked was , why should state decide a community of ppl are muslims or non Muslims. . Now tell me if it is not the responsibility of state to pass any law then who else would? . iam not against Hamza but i dont think Hamza is the right person to criticize state on religious issue . and it is only pakistan who allowed him to criticize state and its laws. Had he been in Saudi and Iran who would have faced serious charges.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Truth is that PEMRA and CII should both be consigned to the rubbish bin. Recommend

  • ahmadtajwer

    I totally agree with you Sami. What a thorough answer.Recommend

  • ahmadtajwer

    Are we trying to imply that freedom of expression should be curtailed. Are we saying Saudi Arabia and Iran are doing right to curtail freedom of expression of their citizens? Are we again not thinking exactly the way our Mullahs wants us to think?Recommend

  • ahmadtajwer

    Our emaan indeed is so weak that in Pakistan, we can’t discuss about minorities openly. Did we notice so called Ulema started shouting and screaming when they were told that Ahmadi Ulema will also be called to discuss this. Doesn’t this show that Ulema too lacks the knowledge that they should presumably have?Recommend

  • afshan

    People in pakistan are afraid of raising their voice for unjustice.i appreciate Hamza for being so brave to come forward and speak about what he think is unfair.Recommend

  • Human

    ‘christine fair and ajit doval’ ? wow that’s like me telling an Indian to ‘sometimes listen to zaid hamid’Recommend

  • Human

    “who am I to call a person non-Muslim who calls himself a Muslim …” -MA Jinnah ,1944Recommend

  • Human

    its they other way around .the ‘intolerance’ existed among the congress and various Hindu nationalist parties. Go check out the ‘Cabinet Mission Plan – 1946’Recommend

  • Sajjad Ali

    If someone do not accept Muhammad (SAW) to be the last Prophet of Allah cannot be called Muslim which is clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadiths……… PEMRA has the authority to ban such Propaganda………..Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Don’t worry mate, the tolerance of Muslims is legendary and no one knows it better than non Muslims.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Zaid Hamid is no longer a hero? That’s breaking news.Recommend

  • Syed Waqar Uddin

    Everyone knows in Pakistan that Ahmedi’s were being declared as a non Muslim in 60s by Parliament of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Now it’s useless to raise this issue. And if somebody discussing it on National Television, he just want to make himself controversial, being controversial in Pakistan is good way to become more and more popular, Current example : Qandeel Block :P :DRecommend

  • siesmann

    So what was Mullah doing alone with Qandeel Baloch in a hotel room?Recommend

  • LS

    If you think Zaid Hamid is in the league of Doval or Christine Fair – Then I only pity your intelligence.Recommend

  • LS

    There NEVER was any “Freedom of Expression” in pakistani constitution. Here is the Article 19 of your constitution. It is so poorly drafted that it looses meaning from second sentence onward.

    https://pakistanconstitutionlaw.com/article-19-freedom-of-speech-etc/

    19. Freedom of speech, etc.-Every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, 1[commission of] or incitement to an offence.Recommend