Media watchers in Pakistan expressed surprise on Tuesday over the reaction in India to a Pakistani programme that purported to show footage of the “ghost” of veteran actor Om Puri.
In a video dating back to January 14, Aamir Liaquat, an anchor with Pakistan's Bol News channel, claimed Puri's ghost had been spotted in front of his Mumbai home. Puri, who portrayed Pakistani characters such as dictator Zia-ul-Haq in several films, died on January 6.
In the purported CCTV footage aired by Bol News, the channel claimed a man wearing a white kurta was the “ghost” of Puri. Liaquat claimed Puri's ghost was spotted outside his Mumbai home, seeking revenge against Ajit Doval, India's National Security Adviser.
Liaquat is not new to controversial claims and staged drama. His first program "Aalim Online", which ran on Geo TV and featured people calling him up from across Pakistan to discuss religious queries, came under a cloud when it was revealed that most of the calls were staged. Despite this, Liaquat went on to become Pakistan's top TV show host and his show was watched by millions.
In one Ramzan game show, he handed out a baby as a prize to a contesting couple, sparking howls of protest from rights activists and groups. In his most recent change of TV channels, he ended up at the Bol TV network, which has strong backing from Pakistan's military. Despite its impressive backing, the channel is suffering from sluggish ratings and Liaquat is trying his possible best to revive its fortunes.
His programme "Aisi Nahi Chalay Ga" deals with controversial topics and has fallen foul of the country's broadcast regulator - PEMRA - for inciting violence and hatred. In one show, he accused some journalists of being on the payrolls of the CIA or RAW. In another, he accused bloggers detained by security agencies of committing blasphemy.
"He has been playing these gimmicks only to get ratings for his failed channel," said Zarrar Khuhro, a leading TV talk show host. Khuhro added the reaction from India "will only delight Aamir Liaquat".