Babies given away on Pakistani talk show

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani
television is screening what many
call its most controversial content
yet in a ruthless quest for ratings: a
talk-show host who gives away
babies live on air.
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a
bespectacled 41-year-old who is
one of Pakistan's most popular talk-
show hosts, gave away two
abandoned infant girls to childless
families last month and plans to
give away a baby boy this week.
"If we didn't find this baby, a cat
or a dog would have eaten it,"
Hussain proclaimed during one
broadcast, before presenting a tiny
girl wrapped in pink and red to her
new parents. The audience erupted
in applause.
During his marathon broadcasts,
Hussain cooks, interviews clerics
and celebrities, entertains children
and hosts game shows. He usually
gives prizes such as motorcycles,
cellphones and land deeds to
audience members who answer
questions about Islam.
But at the beginning of the holy
Muslim month of Ramadan,
Hussain astonished Pakistan when
he presented two families with
infants.
"We were told that we had passed
all the interviews and had been
selected to adopt a baby," said Riaz
Uddin, 40, an engineer. "We got our
baby on live TV."
The abandoned babies were rescued
by the Chhipa Welfare Association,
a Pakistani aid organization.
"In a day or two, the next baby will
be given away, God willing," its
head, Ramzan Chhipa, said
Thursday.
While the Chhipa teams scour
garbage dumps and other sites for
discarded newborns, Hussain also is
appealing for babies directly.
"If any family cannot afford to
bring up their newborn baby due to
poverty or illness, then instead of
killing them, they should hand over
the baby to Dr Aamir," a notice on
his Web site reads. The children
would be given to deserving couples
on air, the notice says.
The show's producers did not
return calls seeking comment. It
was not clear whether poor families
wishing to keep their children
would also be helped.
Many Pakistanis expressed disgust
that abandoned babies were being
given away in what they consider
an attempt to boost ratings. Chhipa
insisted that thousands of people
want a baby and that all potential
parents were properly vetted.
The true outrage, he said, is the
poverty forcing families to
abandon children.
Hussain's show is one of many such
broadcasts. The Pakistani media
have flourished over the past
decade or so following the
liberalization of the industry,
particularly broadcasting, after
decades of tight state control, and
hosts routinely compete to be the
most outrageous.