The people of Pakistan can be divided into two groups of people: those who adore Aamir Liaquat and those who do not.
The latter camp is likely to feel stronger after a recent episode of his popular Ramadan TV show, Amaan Ramazan (1pm and midnight on GEO TV), in which the host proceeded to mock the Pakistani singer-songwriter Taher Shah best known for his cheesy viral music video, Eye to Eye. Apologists argue that Liaquat only did what we have all been doing since Shah released his video in June, which became an instant hit for its sheer novelty. Watch it on YouTube — it's so bad, it's good.
There is a huge difference in a regular Joe making fun of Shah on Facebook, and a "scholar" using his internationally broadcast TV show to poke fun at him, at one point placing a live snake around his neck and suggesting it was the only creature that could appreciate his music.
That Liaquat is well-spoken is his saving grace. He's charming, younger and better-looking than many other hosts. With his charismatic screen presence, Liaquat has won over a nation of people who are exceptionally good at taking things at face value.
The armchair evangelist has failed to win over those who don't like to follow the pack, though. And it's obvious why. Once you scratch the surface, too many skeletons tumble out of the closet.
For one, Liaquat used to be a member of the National Assembly, and in 2002, when Pervez Musharraf - the self-appointed president of Pakistan at the time - made it compulsory for Provincial and National Assembly contestants to hold a bachelor's degree, it became clear that the academic certificates Liaquat was circulating were fake and/or unrecognised. His Islamic Studies degree - the basis of his being regarded as a religious authority - came from the controversial Trinity College and University. The University of Karachi refused to recognise this degree, as well as a master's and a doctorate from the same university. Despite this, Liaquat went on to become the Minister of Religious Affairs.
With a history of inciting the public and acting distastefully, it's a wonder that Liaquat is still allowed to be on air. In 2008, he hosted an episode where he declared Muslims of the Ahmadi sect to be "wajib-ul-qatl" (deserving of murder due to blasphemy). In a matter of days, two members of the Ahmadi community in Pakistan were murdered. Liaquat, of course, claimed it was a coincidence.
In 2011, someone leaked footage from the sets of one of his TV shows, where - off-camera - he was seen mocking his guests, using foul language and indulging in behaviour one would not expect from someone preaching religion. Liaquat claimed the videos had been made, by parties that wanted to damage his credibility.
Regardless of his shortcomings, Liaquat seems set to remain in front of us as the host of some religious show or the other, because he is the champion of the ratings wars when it comes to religious TV shows, undoubtedly and unfortunately.
Ujala Ali Khan lives in Dubai and loves all things desi