Hamza Ali Abbasi, co-host of Aaj TV’s post-Iftar transmission, Ramzan Hamara Emaan, often pointed out for his extreme ideas, borderline hypocrisy and “liberal bashing” on his very active Facebook page, has boldly ventured into an area few do. With Allama Kokab Noorani threatening him with his life, who is wrong here? The loud celebrity or the cleric ready to kill?

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has banned Hamza Ali Abbasi for holding discussions on the Ahmadi community and blasphemy laws during his Ramzan show. It is not that the debate would be especially dangerous, just that it is deemed dangerous by someone, and that someone is the ever-stronger religious right, out to decide itself what is appropriate to be shown to audiences. And who will become dangerous if pro-Ahmadi sentiments are aired on cable TV? The same religious right. The mindset that is complaining to the PEMRA, is the same that would threaten to kill and maim if its feelings were hurt. There has to be a leash put on the quarter of society that gets its way by threats and abuses, rather than on free speech.

In a statement PEMRA said that it has received 1,133 complaints through Whatsapp, Twitter and telephone calls regarding the transmissions. This is easy to do for religious parties and organisations, they have media wings built for such lobbying. Sadly, the moderate voice is not as organised. “During these transmissions, ratings remain the focus under the guise of Ramzan shows,” read the PEMRA statement, adding that “provocative conversations took place during the shows which has led to much anger and sadness”. Sadness and anger is not excuse for censorship in a society that professes to be tolerant. The abusive relationship between the populist majority and the minority continues and we see the same faceoff that we have seen with the religious right and women, Hindus, Sikhs, children, liberals, peasants, and the list goes on – with not a thought to their anger and sadness.

With a dominant, rigid religious narrative on air all the time, people like Abbasi might be the only ones trying to break the glass ceiling. With a plethora of Ramzan talk shows, senseless scenes of suicide acts, and Amir Liaqat simply being himself, one can agree with why PEMRA has to be extra careful. An immediate ban has also been imposed on TV One’s programme Isq-e-Ramzan, hosted by Shabbir Abu Talib. By banning both, PEMRA may think it is being fair. However, with the latter having a guest inciting to kill, while Hamza only asked why we senselessly kill, the bans do not cancel each other out.