“Children are not things,” wrote one horrified observer on the Facebook page of Chhipa Welfare Association, the Karachi-based nongovernmental organisation that has teamed up with the popular game show “Aman Ramazan” to dole out orphaned or abandoned babies. “In Europe the parents are checked at least one year till a child is given to them. What the hell is wrong with you people?”
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Others wrote, “A good thing done in reckless manner is not good, human beings are not trophies, it is unethical from social point of view," and "Shame on you to make it a game show event, what will these children feel when they will grow up? Children are not game show trophies Sir, you are reckless."
Zama Coursen-Neff, a children's-rights expert with Human Rights Watch, told Yahoo! Shine that she was not familiar with the specifics behind the Chhipa Welfare Association’s vetting process. But, she said, “Getting children out of institutions and into families who will provide good care for them is critical. I think probably what triggers the [negative] gut response for people is that, on its face, giving a baby away on a game show doesn't sound like a process of careful determination of what's in a child's best interest.”
Still, online critics were in the great minority, as hundreds of Facebook fans voiced praise for the idea, posting “Well done,” “Great work,” and “Mashallah,” which means “God has willed it.”
Pakistan’s “Aman Ramazan,” airing for seven hours a day during the month of Ramadan (which ends August 7) in front of a live studio audience of 500-plus, has been likened to “The Price Is Right,” awarding prizes such as refrigerators, microwaves and motorcycles to people who correctly answer questions about the Quran. Now host Aamir Liaquat Hussain has been able to add babies to that list of rewards, so far giving away two infant girls to two unsuspecting couples, CNN reports.
"I was really shocked at first. I couldn't believe we were being given this baby girl," Suriya Bilqees, now the mother of a 2-week old, told CNN. "I was extremely happy." She and her husband will now have to apply for guardianship before a court, although there is no official adoption law in the country.
Chhipa Welfare Association, which takes in abandoned babies and provides a safe haven for parents to drop off those they are unable or unwilling to care for, said it receives up to 15 infants a month.
“Our team finds babies abandoned on the street, in garbage bins - some of them dead, others mauled by animals. So why not ensure the baby is kept alive and gets a good home?” director Ramzan Chhipa told CNN. “We didn’t just give the baby away. We have our own vetting procedure. This couple was already registered with us and had four or five sessions with us.”
Hussain said the drive for ratings is not what’s behind the idea, and also said he disagrees with critics who feel the show is trivializing the issue of abandoned children. “These are the disenfranchised babies that grow up to be street kids and used for suicide bombing attacks. We have tried to show an alternative,” he told CNN. “Telling people to take these kids off the rubbish on the streets, raise them and make them a responsible citizen, not to destroy society through terrorism.”
He added, "We've created a symbol of peace and love, that's our show's theme - to spread love. I'm setting an example, giving a childless couple an abandoned child.”
Hussain plans to give another newborn away on the show within the week.