Skip to main content

Pakistan TV show hosted by Aamir Liaquat Hussain gives away babies to audience

By Saima Mohsin and Katie Hunt, CNN
July 31, 2013 -- Updated 0509 GMT (1309 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pakistani game show gives away unwanted babies
  • Childless parents received baby girls during live broadcasts
  • Critics say it's a publicity stunt to win Ramadan ratings battle
  • Another newborn due to be given away in coming days

Karachi (CNN) -- Plumbing new depths in the battle for television ratings, abandoned babies are being given away on a controversial prime-time game show in Pakistan.

TV host Aamir Liaquat Hussain presented baby girls to two unsuspecting couples during his show, which is broadcast live for seven hours a day during the month of Ramadan.

"I was really shocked at first. I couldn't believe we were being given this baby girl," said Suriya Bilqees, now a mother of a two-week old. "I was extremely happy."

Another baby, a boy, is due to be given to another couple at some point in the coming days.

Last Look: Superhero in a Burka
A Girl's World: From London to Pakistan

The show's host has been described as a religious scholar, TV megastar and even a sex symbol. His heady mix of religion and entertainment is often followed by controversy.

"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them," said Hussain.

His show -- Aman Ramazan -- has been dubbed Pakistan's version of The Price Is Right, with members of the 500-strong audience receiving prizes in exchange for answering questions on the Quran.

The giveaway bonanza includes motorbikes, microwave ovens, washing machines and fridges.

He also cooks while men sing Islamic hymns and discusses religion with children in a garden full of rabbits, snakes and goats.

The baby girls given away on the show were found by an NGO, the Chhipa Welfare Association, which says it receives up to 15 abandoned babies a month.

"Our team finds babies abandoned on the street, in garbage bins -- some of them dead, others mauled by animals. So why not ensure the baby is kept alive and gets a good home?" said Ramzan Chhipa, who runs the organization.

"We didn't just give the baby away. We have our own vetting procedure. This couple was already registered with us and had four or five sessions with us."

We've created a symbol of peace and love, that's our show's theme -- to spread love. I'm setting an example. Giving a childless couple an abandoned child
TV host Aamir Liaquat Hussain

But, the couple didn't know they would be handed a newborn when they were invited to take part in the show and paperwork was not processed before the live broadcast.

Adoption is not officially recognized in Pakistan and there is no adoption law. The couple will have to apply for guardianship at a family court.

Some viewers praised the show's baby giveaway but others declared it a publicity stunt.

"Pakistan wake up," Shamim Mahmood wrote on the NGO's Facebook page. "Babies are not trophies to be handed to just anyone."

Hussain says it isn't a gimmick to win ratings during the Islamic holy month. He believes his show is unifying a fractured nation, plagued by sectarian violence, religious intolerance and terrorism.

"These are the disenfranchised babies that grow up to be street kids and used for suicide bombing attacks. We have tried to show an alternative," he said.

"Telling people to take these kids off the rubbish on the streets, raise them and make them a responsible citizen, not to destroy society through terrorism," he said.

The show has proved extremely popular, breaking ratings records and may be extended beyond its Ramadan run. He is also planning another program where the audience will be from the minority Hindu, Sikh and Christian communities.

"We've created a symbol of peace and love, that's our show's theme -- to spread love. I'm setting an example. Giving a childless couple an abandoned child," Hussain said.

CNN's Saima Mohsin reported from Karachi, journalist Katie Hunt wrote and reported from Hong Kong

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
For years, Morten Storm moved between two worlds. A radical Islamist turned double agent is lifting the lid on some of the world's best-kept secrets.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN how they were kidnapped and says no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him since his release.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 0912 GMT (1712 HKT)
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2216 GMT (0616 HKT)
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1534 GMT (2334 HKT)
What will happen to Scotland's business (not to mention its currency) if they vote to leave?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
The Ebola virus, very deadly and currently without a cure, is fast-spreading throughout the small West African country.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Go to any provincial city in China and you'd be forgiven for thinking the national youth pastimes are online gaming and flirting.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea calls its human rights a "superior system."
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
In Wenzhou, called the "Jerusalem of China," authorities have demolished churches.
Are you Muslim? What do you want the world to know about your religion?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT