The sellers of souls anticipate the arrival of the holiest month of Ramzan more than anyone else. The fasting that subsists from predawn till the sunset basically teaches the cardinal principles of tolerance, patience, care for others, abstention from vices, etc. Ironically, in Pakistan, from the big media houses to the hoarders, merchants, even the cart vendors, pseudo-religious (read: part time) clerics masquerading as scholars go exactly against the very spirit of Ramzan. It would not be wrong to say that they earn more in one month of Ramzan than the rest of the year put together.
Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of history by fighting the war of its very survival. Since the beginning of the 21st Century the world has witnessed colossal changes in terms of new technological trends and has also faced impending security issues. Pakistan too has followed the world, but less in the former and more in the latter sense.
During the era of Pervez Musharraf various revolutionary things took place that includes the advent of private and independent media channels, which was actually the brainchild of Benazir Bhutto. The media played a significant role during Musharraf’s emergency and subsequent events that proved fatal to the reign of Pervez Musharraf and he had to unwillingly sideline from the political arena.
As the time passed, media groups and their television channels kept hankering for new contents for their viewers. Initially the same TV channels used to host news, political talk shows, religious shows, and entertainment programs, all in one. But later on the religious, news, and entertainment channels were gradually separated.
During the rest of the year, TV channels are filled with a combination of programs of multiple kinds, but the holy month of Ramzan bears some special importance for the media owners and most of the airtime is allotted to the Ramzan transmission which goes live for an uninterrupted period of 4 to 6 hours in one go. The competition and high ratings have made the media outlets a mad elephant and they can go to any extent to get the maximum ratings.
In the month of Ramzan the actors, singers, comedians, newscasters and political anchors appear out of the blue with altered attires and emulate the celebrated religious scholars. The so-called torch-bearers of Islam often misguide and mislead their followers. Their knowledge in Islam is very limited and they generally misinterpret the Quranic verses and the Hadith.
The Ramzan transmission on many TV channels go beyond the mind’s eye because if one has to switch the channel for some entertainment, s/he does not have to bother about it as everything is there in the religious program. The producers of these shows spend an enormous amount of money on the set designing. They bring in anaconda, parrots, and peacocks, dummies of elephant, crocodile and even tigers, giving the impression of a zoo.
The anchors of the religious transmission, impersonating as extremely religious and pious persons, use their acting skills and talk about the miseries of poor people of Pakistan with impeccable face. Islam teaches simplicity while the anchors of the Ramzan transmission wear designer Kurtas which are worth more than the yearly income of a common citizen of Pakistan. Most of the anchors of Ramzan shows own designer clothes boutiques. Along with the publicity of other items, they take it as a blessing in disguise and use the program as publicity platforms for their own merchandise.
The Ramzan transmission gets even more ratings than the Turkish and Indian soap operas which bears testimony to the fact that it is presented in an alluring and glamorous way that it attracts more viewership than the fictional dramas.
Back in mid of 2000s, a program started with the banner of Aalim Online broadcasting from Geo TV which is said to be the pioneer of religious programs in Pakistan. Other TV channels stepped in the shoe of Geo TV and started their own look alike religious programs. The industry is not short of mimics who at times change their features from singer, actor or a self proclaimed intellectual ― with fake degree ― to religious scholars and can entertain the audience. Their superficial knowledge of Islam often leads their viewers in the wrong direction, further spreading intolerance in the society.
The people of Pakistan may or may not approve of the futile Ramzan transmission, but the giant corporations and media groups take it as granted. They exploit the holy month to the fullest and earn huge revenues, capitalizing on the presence of special transmissions. While in the broader spectrum, the people of Pakistan get nothing. Rather than giving huge airtime to these religious-cum-entertainment shows, the media groups should think of other options. For instance, as in the UK, here also the airtime can be allotted to the programs whereby funds for IDPs and other deserving people can be raised. Or it can be used to help educate people about their rights and duties. We can reduce the rising extremism and violence, and spread religious harmony by educating the masses using TV. The current fashion of Ramzan programs should be replaced with something which is effective and has a positive impact on the society.