Pakistan Idol & Law of the Land…

IMG_20130920_020701-300x3001Pakistan Idol, probably one of the biggest platforms for aspiring singers, was a much awaited arrival.  Much excitement had been witnessed on social media ever since the announcement of schedule of auditions while a vast majority waited for the episodes to be aired.

Sponsored by big names including Pepsi, Mobilink, Q-Mobile and Clear, Pakistan Idol has been brought by Geo Television Network.  The official website of Pakistan Idol claims it to be “Dil Ki Awaz (Sound of the Heart), The Biggest Singing Platform, Comes to Pakistan, Gracing Your TV Screens Soon… “, with Bushra Ansari, Hadiqa Kiyani and Ali Azmat as judges and Mohib Mirza as the host.

Ever since the commencement of airing of episodes, Pakistan Idol has been the talk of the town.  The viewing was followed by the expected agreements and disagreements of the judges’ decisions to the qualification of the judges themselves, to favorites and not so favorites and many more such subjective nuances with a number of people on each side of the argument.  While such debates will continue for much time to come, there are certain issues which cannot and must not be taken lightly.

An episode of Pakistan Idol was aired where a contestant was attacked personally by Ali Azmat and supported by Bushra Ansari.  In this particular episode, Ali Azmat makes fun of the contestant in a derogatory manner, insults him on a public forum and derives utter pleasure out of his acts.  Considering the age and stature, it would be expected that Bushra Ansari would check the situation.  However, to the surprise of many, she too joins in and mocks the contestant.  Hadiqa, on the other hand, seems to be one of the sane ones and tries to scale it down as the contestant’s eyes well-up from the constant personal blows by the other two judges.  It is pertinent to mention that this is just one example while there have been other instances where the looks and other physical attributes have been commented upon.  This behavior did not go un-checked and was followed by a public outcry.  Even renowned Dr. Shahid Masood, along with many others reacted on social media.Shahid MasoodA piece appearing in Tribune “Ali Azmat, you crossed the line.” by Noman Ansari aptly encapsulate the public reaction.

While many limited their response to such atrocious behavior to tweets and status updates on Facebook, others went a step further and created a Facebook Page titled “Pakistan Idol Humiliation” and a petition demanding a public apology by the sponsors and judges was quickly signed by about 1,000 people in 24 hours.

Is it just a matter one someone made to feel bad? Is it as simple as Ms. Asma Munawar feels? asma2asma1It may not be as simply put as Ms. Munwar feels.  The Constitution of Pakistan (Introduction, Clause 4 ‘Rights of Individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc.’) states:

  • 4 (1) To enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen.  Wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.
  • 4 (2) (a) No Action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.

How is it that the above excerpt applies to the humiliation witnessed in the cited instance?  A “Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasting/Cable TV Operators”  was introduced as suggestion/guidelines under PEMRA Ordinance 2002 to bring in the element of responsibility.  Relevant section of the said Code of Conduct states:

  • 1. No programme shall be aired which: (L) denigrates men or women through the depiction in any manner of the figure, in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent or derogatory.

While suggestions/guidelines cannot be enforced by law, according to an expert on the subject, the cited Code of Conduct, which, more often than not, is ignored by our Media, does indeed have force of law behind it following the PEMRA (Amended) Ordinance in November of 2007. Quoting from page 234 of “A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan”  by Yasmeen Aftab Ali:

  • Sec8 (4) states that, “A Licensee or permission holder shall ensure that nothing is transmitted or broadcast in violation of the provisions of the Ordinance or rules or regulations, and Code of Conduct and for this purpose shall install time delay equipment within its system to prevent any such violation.”  The rules therefore are binding upon our electronic media and noncompliance can result in punishment.

Commitment of such an act is a major issue and challenges the overall morality.  In this case, it may actually be a legal issue if the analysis contained herein is correct.  Most perturbing is the reaction of this icon who continues to mock the sentiments of the nation and possibly continues to fall on the wrong side of the law.  From the following tweets, it seems that Ali Azmat’s sole agenda was to get signed for another three seasons at the cost of causing humiliation and insult to individuals.  Many may have mistaken the objective of this platform to provide opportunities to aspiring singers.

Pakistan Idol, in response to the claim on your website “Gracing Your TV Screens”, what has been witnessed is utter disgrace.  Perhaps it may be in the best interest of the sponsors to reconsider overall stance.  What exactly is sponsored here? Talent hunt, opportunity to aspiring singers OR insults, derogatory (possibly illegal) behavior?