Aamir Liaquat was a politician and well-known television personality. The news of his death at 50 has been widely reported not only in Pakistan, but also internationally. Aamir Liaquat was a bigger than life character due to his excesses and controversies as both a TV host, and as a politician. Amir was loved by many and loathed by others. He was often the epitome the expression “love him or hate him”, and was an example of the saying, “You cannot ignore him.”
Even though you may have hated him, there is still a sadness about the circumstances of his death. As I type these sentences, condolences continue to pouring in from celebrities and politicians, including former prime Minister Imran Khan. Death is a powerful and unshakeable fact. Aamir, in his final days, was clearly broken. This is clear from his videos. After the failure to his third marriage to Dania Shah, and the subsequent backlash that he received after she released secretly recorded videos of himself, he stated that he wanted to leave Pakistan. His mental health was further impacted by the abuse he received from supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI), against Imran.
Although I disliked him quite a bit in his lifetime, I have strong reasons to do so. The video that he uploaded did make me feel a little more open-minded towards him. He revealed his sensitive side, which is far less sinister than I thought. It is not uncommon to feel sympathy for someone who has fallen from fame and become infamy. The sudden death of his wife has added a tragic dimension to his life. Personally, I feel sorry for him. There are many statuses on social media asking people to forgive his mistakes, and remember the positive aspects about his personality.
All that said, although I feel terrible about his untimely death, I also have to be honest in assessing his legacy. His life had a profound impact on not only the general population but also many politicians and TV hosts.
I would love to say that his legacy was a positive one or that it is mixed. His legacy is deeply controversial and troubling. He was a great entertainer, and should be commended for that. One cannot ignore the fact that his style was built on exaggeration and vulgarity, controversy, rudeness and sometimes even rudeness towards his guests. He understood that vulgarity and controversy, even when they provoke disgust and condemnation, can translate into higher ratings.
Also Read: Aamir Liaquat Hussain found dead in his house
Although his role as entertainer can be overlooked, it is important to note how he attempted to control the discourse on religion in Pakistan, and how he used it in dangerous ways. This is the most disturbing aspect of his legacy. It’s made worse by the fact he was perceived as a religious scholar.
Yes, he did highlight the suffering of Muslims in Myanmar (and Indian-occupied Kashmir) in his programmes and via social media. His negatives in this area far outweigh his positives. He openly challenged the religious beliefs of certain sects of Islam. This not only contributed to religious intolerance within society, but also led to some very serious and tragic consequences. He promoted hate speech against Ahmadi people on his TV show in September 2008. This was followed by the murders a number of prominent Ahmadi persons within two days. But, no action was taken against the man. His promotion hate speech against the same community led to yet another murder a few years later. However, he didn’t face any serious consequences. He not only spread hatred against Ahmadis but also targeted other Pakistani religious minorities via social media such as mocking Hindu gods.
Aamir Liaquat also negatively influenced public discourse about the existing blasphemy laws by presenting its opponents as anti-religion and framing them as Islamic. He hurled blasphemy accusations against missing blogger in 2017 and demanded their death in his TV show. For this, he was temporarily prohibited. It was very dangerous to make baseless accusations, as it helped fuel the current trend towards weaponizing existing blasphemy laws in order to settle other scores. He was banned from appearing again on television in December 2017. He continued to engage in hate speech, in which he not only spread religious intolerance but also accused others of treason. Aamir Liaquat was open to inciting religious hatred and was ready to push the boundaries. The fact that the bans placed on him were always lifted was a boon for him. He was, in many ways, the pioneer of broadcast journalism’s current trend where TV anchors can say whatever they want without supporting their claims with evidence.
Aamir also indulged in open sexualism, and misogynistic behavior. This contributed to the normalization of such thinking within wider society. His tactics included making vulgar and inappropriate comments in front of female guests and openly shaming some women (often prominent, liberal, feminist and political figures) on social media and in his TV programs. His misogynistic attitude extended to his own relationships, where he used his media to insult his ex-wives. Extremely objectionable was his glorifying of Dania’s third marriage (clearly 30 years younger than him, and according to some interviews, actually minor). He tried to use his success and entitlement by marrying a young, beautiful girl.
Although Aamir’s legacy is not ideal, I am aware of the fact Aamir was a symbol of many of the flaws and contradictions of the society to which he belonged. He contributed in some ways to these societal failures, but he was also a product of the system. Because he said what people wanted to hear, his persona resonated with large audiences. He was not a monster, but a Machiavellian operator ready to commercially exploit society’s deep-rooted and problematic attitudes.