Not that there can be a comparison, but it is so noticeable that we are fast doing to the holy month of Ramazan what we did to the joyous festival of Basant - saturating it with commercialisation to the point that the essence of the celebration becomes invisible under the hoopla.

The commercialisation of the spiritual month has taken on crass proportions and my fear is that the country’s electronic media, with its prevailing trends, is more harming than promoting its true spirit and message.

The ratings show that these programmes, particularly the one with the most lavish set, are watched and people seek invitations to be on the daily programmes where chances of getting expensive gifts are very high. It has become all about the free gifts and lavish spending.

The core message of discipline and simplicity, which the Prophet of Islam (pbuh) practiced and preached as also not being susceptible to material things, is completely lost in these transmissions. Receiving the free presents is what fuels and propels this transmission and is the main reason for its all time high popularity graph. What we are teaching the populace is vulgarity instead of moral values.

I often wonder why we are so keen to throw moderation, sensibilities and good taste out of the window in everything that we do. The biggest casualty whenever we can afford to spend money is our sense of balance - whether it is our weddings, our celebrations or our sacrosanct religious occasions like Ramazan. Perhaps, it is the upstartish wish of being unmatchable and to outdo all previous records established by competition. (That we never strive with the same passion for activity like sports where it may result in higher, worthwhile achievement is a sad fact too.)

The display of wealth is directly connected to the display of power, which is in direct contrast to what we repeat all the time as our basic belief that all power is vested in Allah. It is not something for which we require a regulatory authority, as all the code of conduct is available to us in the Holy Quran as well as the Sunnah and the examples of all the caliphs, who were companions of the Prophet of Islam (pbuh).

Of course, the organisations selling commercial goods are also to be blamed for promoting this material vulgarity. Just to have their brand name repeated ad nauseam within those elongated transmission hours, they give away in their product because they are saving the money from their advertising budgets.

What’s more, there is also a need to take notice of the elaborate wardrobes of the hosts of these transmissions. When they are not in their different designer sherwanis, on a daily basis, they sometimes don the Arab dress that is also beyond my comprehension. It is again about going beyond the required norms of behaviour.

As these transmissions spread out over long hours, there are a host of people who get to express their personal views on all the channels and have made a huge selling of whatever understanding of our religion they have. The actual and learned among them are few and far between.

One is reminded of the previous Ramazan whereby we were told that Veena Malik, India-based Pakistani actress, was going to conduct a religious programme, but which was later called off amidst general protest. The ratings for this would also have been sky high had it gone on air; I’m sure for its shock value rather than content. While I’m not taking away Veena Malik’s rights to her personal beliefs, there is also no need to swing from one end of the pendulum to another for commercially viable reasons.

We have also been exposed to a new idea in this month. There were very visible presentations of a couple of new born but abandoned babies to childless couples on live television. Adoption is a serious business and so many things are taken into account when deciding the suitability of potential adopters before taking the final step of handing over a child to them. Again, there is no information if any of those procedures were followed or not, or was it done just to create ratings and effect too.

I often wonder when the electronic media will begin to realise that it has a serious role to play in educating and informing people about behavioural changes and improved values through knowledge based programmes rather looking at every occasion as a commercial opportunity.

Postscript: The Supreme Court has undermined itself by taking only a couple of hours to give a verdict in favour of a petition from a PML-N representative to hasten the presidential elections by one week. The reasons cited were that there would be as many as 100 members in Aitkaaf or away for Umrah on the earlier scheduled date of August 6. It could just as easily have been delayed for a week instead of being hastened. It is now being perceived by most as accommodation to PML-N’s request rather than a fair assessment. There is a certain amount of time required to visit and campaign for contesting candidates, which has not been provided in this case. The office of the President could possibly also have non-political nominations, with credible track records for achievement, so that they become true symbols of the federation instead of politicians with leanings, particularly now that the office is more symbolic with no special powers in the constitution. Because apart from being a regular guy, nothing much else is being said about the credentials of the candidate all set up to win - Mamnoon Hussain.

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.