Amaan Ramazan, dubbed Pakistan’s answer to The Price is Right, usually awards washing machines or laptops.
But when viewing peaks during the holy month of Ramadan it has twice offered newborns to winners. The stunts have been roundly condemned … but they may have actually helped save the children who had been abandoned at birth. Last week the prime time show’s host Aamir Liaquat Hussain showed off a baby girl to the cameras.
He then told the studio audience: “This girl was thrown on pile of garbage by somebody. See how beautiful and innocent she is.”
The ‘jackpot prize’ was then handed over to Riaz-ud-din and his wife, who had strugged to conceive.
A shell-shocked Riaz-ud-din gasped: “These 14 years were full of hardships, people asked to go for second marriage but I remained patient and also asked my wife to be patient.”
His wife added the girl was a ‘Gift of Ramadan’.
The babies used were presented by the Chhipa Welfare Association, a charity which rescues abandoned babies.
Its organiser Muhammad Ramzan Chhipa explained: “We have lots of babies that are just abandoned, left in the garbage or other dirty places. Often we just find the bodies so our message is to tell people to bring their babies to us, don’t leave them.”
He said the show’s lucky couples had previously approached his organisation to adopt children, although he did not discuss how they were vetted.
Hundreds of babies are abandoned every month in Pakistan, where birth outside marriage is condemned and adultery can be punishable by death.
And girls are most at risk of being abandoned, as many Pakistanis see them as a financial risk because most are banned from work and families can be expected to raise more than £6,450 for their husband’s family.
The TV channel behind the giveaway, Geo News, has been blasted for allowing the human prize.
Bina Shah, a writer in Karachi where the show is based, said the stunts were driven by advertising and viewing figures.
“It speaks to the commercialisation of everything … including religion,” she said. “Giving away a baby on television is the worst violation of media ethics I can think of.”