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Pakistan Bans Gambling-Related Content on TV during Holy Month

As an Islamic country, Pakistan observes the Holy Month of Ramadan (also known as Ramadhan or Ramzan) and this year, the Islamabad High Court has decided to ban all gambling-related content on TV channels during that time. This includes all lottery shows, either aired live or recorded, and even lotteries offering tickets for Hajj and Umrah, the Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Although Pakistan is not particularly friendly to gambling, especially to some forms of games and betting, it tolerates certain types of lotteries, namely the so-called prize bond draws. Although illegal, they are extremely popular and tickets for them can be purchased from hundreds of dealers around the country. Another widely spread type of gambling is the underground betting on cricket and horse races. The TV entertainment shows and advertisements that feature gambling and lottery-related content are also quite widespread, as there are lotteries that offer tickets for the otherwise expensive Islamic pilgrimages to Mecca, Hajj and Umrah.

However, all this will be banned during the upcoming Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is observed all around the world. It starts May 15 and continues through June 14 this year, which means that television channels in Pakistan will not be allowed to broadcast anything even remotely related to gambling or betting for an entire month. The decision was announced Wednesday when the Islamabad High Court warned several TV hosts to “maintain decorum” during the Holy Month.

During a hearing, Justice Shaukar Aziz Siddiqui said that any games of chance, whether that would be lucky draws or distributing Umra tickets, are against the spirit of the Holy Month. He compared lottery shows with “circus” and said that such content should not be allowed. He then directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to issue notices to several anchors who, according to him, introduced practices of “romping around” during the Holy Month. If these TV hosts, including Amir Liaquat, Faisal Qureshi, Fahad Mustafa, Sahir Lodhi and Waseem Badami, do not comply with the temporary ban, they will face a lifetime ban from television and media.

More Content Banned by the High Court

According to the judges, gambling is not the only thing that should be removed from TV programmes during Ramazan. The content aired during that time should keep and respect the “integrity” and “sanctity” of the month, they believe. This is why there will also be a complete ban on advertisements, dramas and films of foreign origin, India in particular. Normally, up to 10 per cent of all TV content can be foreign and it may be-be aired but is subject to approval by a special committee and PEMRA.

The Islamabad High Court also banned a number of entertainment programs which are appearing to be like a circus show during the Holy Month. This, according to Justice Shaukar Aziz Siddiqui, will provide an atmosphere in accordance with the teachings and requirement of Islam. In addition, all TV channels should broadcast a call to prayer five times a day. Another move that seems a bit too restrictive is the requirement that only individuals with no less than a Ph.D. degree can speak on religious matters.