The sensational life and death of Aamir Liaquat

The sensational life and death of Aamir Liaquat

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“Most men,” wrote Robert Green Ingersoll, “can bear adversity; but if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power.” And if fame is a form of power, then at one point the late Aamir Liaquat Hussain was one of the most powerful people in Pakistan. Indeed, if there is such a thing as the Pakistani dream, Aamir bhai lived it. 

From a middle-class background, he became the idol of millions with his unique style of quasi-religious discourse married with the antics of a frenetic game show host and the morality of a used car salesman.  Switching between his many personas with seamless ease, he played his audience like a virtuoso would a violin; he could make you cry, laugh and hate with equal ease. His energy was boundless, his antics inimitable and his restlessness could barely be restrained. He seemed untouchable; he could humiliate his guests on national television and yet they loved him for it, and he loved being loved. 

But where did the persona end and the person begin? Did the façade become the face or vice versa? Was it the strain of this accumulated toxicity that led to his inevitable spiralling? We may never know, even though we all bore witness to his descent and degeneration, chronicled as it was on our social media feeds and television screens. From becoming the spectacle maker, he became the spectacle. Until the curtain fell at last.

Restlessness defined every facet of Aamir Liaquat’s life; he juggled a political career with show business and often it was difficult to tell the difference between the two paths he took given that he brought the same frantic energy and exhibitionism to both. Starting out with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 2002, Hussain won an MNA seat and, two years later, found a cabinet post in Shaukat Aziz’s cabinet. In politics, as in showbiz, he successfully sought out controversy. There were dramatic declarations, resignations and expulsions; he would time and again quit the field with the promise to abandon politics forever, only to return to the fray. His final political sojourn, as an MNA of the PTI, was marked by more of the same: controversy and cryptic statements followed by theatrical about-turns.

But where did the persona end and the person begin? Did the façade become the face or vice versa? 

Zarrar Khuhro

Running parallel to this was his showbiz career, which truly began with the breakout ‘aalim online’ on Geo TV, his signature show which elevated him to such dizzying heights that channels would offer eye-watering sums to have him host their Ramzan transmissions and shows; to have Aamir on your screen in the holy month meant money, and lots of it.

With the demand came the inevitable need to raise the bar each time, to make each performance bigger and more brazen than the last, and in that quixotic quest were the seeds of his downfall. Time and again, he was banned from the airwaves – once for ‘comedically’ re-enacting the suicide of a young girl.

But this was not the worst of it. Not by far. In 2008, Hussain launched an on-air tirade against the minority Ahmadi community during a discussion on ‘Aalim online’ with two Islamic scholars whom he repeatedly urged to declare the community ‘fit to kill’-- a proposition to which they eventually agreed. Less than a day later, an Ahmadi doctor Abdul Manan Siddiqui was shot dead in Mirpur Khas and within 48 hours of the show airing, another Ahmadi was killed in Nawabshah. Could those deaths be laid at his door? Perhaps. Was this an unhappy coincidence? Possibly. Did he ever express public contrition? No. In fact in 2015, he encouraged and applauded hate speech against the same community again. 

Few people are blessed with the fame and influence that Aamir Liaquat enjoyed. It is a blessing that is its own burden, as even fewer can carry such an onerous weight. It is a test in which many are found wanting, choosing instead to take the priceless gift and misuse it. And in that is the true tragedy of the sensational life and death of Amir Liaquat-- a tragedy of immense potential squandered for momentary gain.

— Zarrar Khuhro is a Pakistani journalist who has worked extensively in both the print and electronic media industry. He is currently hosting a talk show on Dawn News.

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view