"This car is awesome, but what I really want is a newborn," said no game show contestant ever.
Nonetheless, the creators of Pakistan's version of The Price is Right, called Aman Ramzan, are taking the path less chosen and including weeks-old babies among the prizes.
Besides giving away bulky household items like microwaves, washing machines, and refrigerators, Pakistan's prime-time game show is a far cry from America's Price is Right. Aman Ramzan is broadcast live for seven hours a day during the holy month of Ramadan. The show's Bob Barker is Aamir Liaquat Hussain — one-part evangelist, one-part mega star, one-part sex symbol (allegedly). Instead of quizzing eager audience members about the cost of dish soap, Hussain rewards contestants who can correctly answer questions about the Quran. (Watch a short clip below.)
The babies are a new addition to the prizes, which the host has characterized as a humanitarian effort to give the abandoned and the childless a second chance.
"We've created a symbol of peace and love, that's our show's theme — to spread love," Hussain told CNN. "I'm setting an example. Giving a childless couple an abandoned child."
During a recent taping, Hussain presented two unsuspecting couples with baby girls. One of the new mothers said she was shocked at first, but grew ecstatic once she realized the girl was hers to have. Hussain reportedly plans on giving away a baby boy next.
A local nonprofit called the Chhipa Welfare Association provides the show with the abandoned newborns. The organization's employees say they have seen what can become of babies left to the elements — starvation, animal attacks, death — and so giving them away on a game show is a vast improvement.
"Why not ensure the baby is kept alive and gets a better home?" said Ramzan Chippa, the organization's head.
The babies aren't just given to random contestants, either. The Chhipa Welfare Association claims the soon-to-be parents are already registered with the organization and have expressed interest in caring for a child. The specifics of how an interested couple become contestants on the game show are a little shady. No official paperwork is completed during the program. And the husband and wife aren't necessarily told beforehand that they could be walking away with a newborn.
Pakistan doesn't officially recognize adoption, so if the couple want to authorize their prize, they will have to apply for guardianship in a family court.
People have been quick to criticize the show, calling the bizarre prize a gimmick to ensure higher ratings. But the show's host insists his motives are pure. He says he is not only spreading love and joy during the holiest of months — not unlike Santa Claus during Christmas? — but also saving homeless children from a life of violence.
"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.
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