But the best-known of all the TV evangelists is Dr Amir Liaqat. From a glossy television studio above a parade of run-down shops in Karachi, he had an audience of millions for Alim aur Alam, a live one-hour show that went out five days a week across Pakistan.
The programme allowed Dr Liaqat to play the role of a religious "Agony Uncle", remedying the religious dilemmas of his audience.
In September 2008, Liaqat dedicated an entire episode to exploring the beliefs of the Ahmedis, a Muslim sect which has been declared as "un-Islamic" by much of the orthodoxy. In it, two scholars said that anyone who associated with false prophets was "worthy of murder".
Dr Khalid Yusaf, an Ahmedi Muslim, watched the programme with his family, and says he was shocked that a mainstream channel would broadcast this kind of material.
"They talked about murder as a religious duty. A duty for 'good' Muslims."Like I said--a real fun guy. Guess what happened when someone heeded the Doc's advice?
Within 24 hours of the broadcast, a prominent member of the Ahmedi community was shot dead in the small town of Mirpur Kass. Twenty-four hours later Khalid Yusaf's father, another Ahmedi community leader, was killed by two masked gunmen.Not that the "Agony Uncle" thinks he's responsible for that:
Liaqat has distanced himself from the shootings. "I have no regrets because it has nothing to do with me," he says. "I'm hurt by what happened and I'm sorry for the families but it has nothing to do with me or anything that was said on my programme."And, lucky for him, the bad publicity hasn't hurt his "brand":
Although Liaqat attracted some criticism within the comment pages of Pakistan's broadsheets, the Ahmedi incident hasn't damaged his career. He's being paid to endorse a brand of cooking oil and he's soon to launch his debut album of religious songs.Looking forward to his upcoming appearance on Bethenny and/or Saturday Night Live.
Update: TV viewers in the Toronto area may recall another Pakistani televangelist Doc--Dr. Israr Ahmad. The gnomish-looking preacher (he resembled Yoda) got in hot water when he advised the faithful to wage jihad against non-believers, and to do so financially if they were not up to doing it physically. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that that was a perfectly acceptable thing to say, because he uttered it within the "context" of the Koran (his one prop--there was a gibungous one on his desk) and because at no time did he raise his voice (and if there's one thing we Canadians appreciate, it's a polite jihadi).