Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Doctor is in (and likely to stay)

So, after everyone else has taken their shots at Dr. Saab, it’s time I register my take on the whole affair. I’m assuming, by now, everyone has seen the offending video clip (despite GEO’s efforts to get it pulled from youtube), as well as Dr.Saab’s ensuing jawab-e-shikwa, and have been anxiously awaiting my comments on them. You have, don't deny it! Anybody who thinks Aamir Liaquat’s explanation is the entire truth should stop here, as the follows assumes the opposite.

To start off, was it really that wrong for Aamir Liaquat to be caught swearing, and acting less than charitable while off air? Well, in short, yes! It was exactly that wrong, maybe even more. A very telling sign of this is his subsequent explanation. Had his actions been acceptable, or even only mildly unacceptable, there would have been no need for such a wildly outrageous explanation. He could have apologised, or simply ignored the issue, as he has been steadfastly doing regarding his dubious doctorate for the past many years (fake degrees, as we all know, are only a minor sin). Instead, he dug himself into a deeper hole by stating that the tongue that mentions the name of the Prophet could never engage in vulgarity. So, in his own words, such behaviour would be intolerable and render him unsuited to fulfilling his role on television.

This is both his prerogative and his necessity. The fact of the matter is that the wholesome, unimpeachably pious persona is what he was selling. He could not, under any circumstances, allow this image to be tarnished.

And this is where more culprits need to be drawn into the dock. Aamir Liaquat Hussain is not just a personality engaged in imparting Islam. He is a carefully cultivated, and most importantly, highly lucrative product. Not only does he earn his television channels obscene amounts of money, he is also the face of many an advertising campaign. So, maintaining the false façade of Aamir Liaquat is in the interest of many a powerful group. I’m not sure about his current political standing, but there was definitely a time when these groups also featured a prominent political party.

This brings us to the responsibilities of all of these groups. Since we’ve established that his behaviour was intolerable for someone carrying out his responsibilities, was it not the job of his producers or channel executives to distance themselves from him? Since most of the clips are from Geo, shouldn’t they be held responsible for housing and promoting a charlatan? And what of his ad endorsements? Will advertisers and companies try to pull him from their campaigns?

Of course, I’m living in a dream world when I say these things; in a world where profitability is not the measure of morality. More likely, everyone will look to quietly gloss over this little blip. We’ve all had our laughs, and now it’s back to work, making money selling piety. The only way anybody is going to pull away from Aamir Liaquat after this is if he becomes a financial liability. But since our opinions are mostly decided by these very media groups I suspect there's little danger of that happening and it would just be cheaper to pretend nothing happened.

At the same time, I do suspect one aspect of Aamir Liaquat’s explanation rings true. I have a feeling his accusation that Geo intentionally leaked the video to damage his reputation is not entirely outlandish. After all, they had lost a cash cow to the opposition, why not try to dent their investment? They pulled the video from youtube just a fraction too late. It had gone viral.

On the other hand, if this was the act of a rogue Geo employee with access to the tapes, will Geo be naming him and acting against him for violation of copyright? I suspect not!

Come to think of it, I guess it’s about as likely as Aamir Liquat taking legal action against Geo for “dubbing and imitating him” for the purposes of defamation.