Atif Aslam, Abida Parveen and Asim Azhar performed in Karachi this weekend, but what was meant to be an enjoyable night turned out to be a horrifying experience for many.
The concert, held on January 14, Saturday, was organised by IBA as part of their MUNIK (Model United Nations). Things took a wrong turn due to mismanagement as many gatecrashed the concert.
The crowd was out of control and many women were harassed and molested.
Here are some incidents people shared of the night on Facebook:
Things had become so problematic that during Atif's performance, when some female attendees in the front row were being harassed, the singer stopped his concert mid-way, asked a young woman to be 'rescued' and then told the harraser to behave and respect women, otherwise he'll walk out.
People immediately termed his act heroic:
"It was horrible management," Osama shared with Images.
"The concert was supposed to start at 7.30/8pm, but nobody was allowed to enter the premises till 9pm. They had the gates shut and it was highly disturbing because they were expecting a huge crowd but there was only one small gate to pass through. Families, VIPs, security, everyone was passing through that gate; automatically people were getting harassed and pushed on their way in, and women were getting squished in the middle.
"It took us 45 minutes to enter, and we were one of the lucky ones to make it in first, others had to wait outside for longer."
He continued, "They were short staffed, it was evident they had no arrangement for the crowd, there were no bouncers, very less security. There was a VIP enclosure with short barriers where we were sitting, but 10-15 minutes into Asim Azhar's performance -- the first performance of the night -- we saw that people from the general entry had pushed away the barriers and were making their way into the VIP lounge."
Osama added that they were all seated on couches when a huge rush of people crashed into the VIP area; they ran and made their way straight to the front, closest to the stage. "The VIPs couldn't see anything as they were sitting and all these people were standing. There was total chaos. VJ Ahmed Godil was the host and he continually begged the crowd to back away from the stage as it was messing with the sound system, but nobody listened."
"The concert was supposed to end at 2am, but due to the delay and disorganisation it ended at 2.45am. Many women and families had left by then. Atif's performance started at 1.17am and it was during his show that he stopped and called out one harasser. I personally didn't seen any harassment, I just saw people being pushed. My friends who were outside told me that they saw women being harassed."
"I don't know if the harassment stopped after Atif pointed it out, maybe it did in the front row did but there was a massive crowd and we don't know what was happening back there."
Dua Rashid, one attendee, told Images she was touched by Atif's act.
"Atif was performing after Abida left -- this was around 1.15am -- he was in the middle of a song when he suddenly stopped and so did the music; he bent down to talk to one of the boys in the front row, he still had the mic in his hand and we could all hear him.
He asked the boy something along the lines of, 'Have you never seen a girl before?' or 'Do you have women at home?' and then ordered security to come on stage. On his orders, two security guards immediately came on stage and were ordered by Atif to 'rescue her [the girl],' they pulled the girl up on stage and escorted her down the stairs.
"Atif then addressed the boy again warning him not to engage in such mannerism. He then turned to the crowd and spoke about respecting girls and added that he'd end the concert if we didn't comply to his instructions on respecting women."
Another attendee, Laibah Iftikhar, said: "Atif Aslam said I want to rescue her. He was amazing throughout. It was a mess initially but eventually it worked out really well.
"I think they oversold tickets. We had VIP tickets, but that didn't make a difference because we didn't even have a separate entrance. People just ran in without showing tickets. People were fighting, it was insane."
She added, "It was a disaster, I ended up screaming at an aunty and I NEVER MISBEHAVE with anyone."
Faisal Kapadia also witnessed the harassment at the concert.
"Yep, right in the front there was someone pushing a girl. He stopped the concert, told people to rescue her, and told the guys to behave or he will leave."
"He was quite pissed at the people pushing."
"In the middle of his concert, somebody was pushing some girls in the front row, He stopped the concert and he told his manager Omer, to go rescue the girl and he told the organisers to remove the guys in the front row who were pushing the girls and he told them 'insaan kay bachay bano', and he even asked them 'tumhari maa behnein nahi hain', and if you keep continuing to do this, I'm going to walk off.' That's why people are saying they have such respect for him."
Shahzaib Qureshi, pressed that the issue was due to the organisers' mismanagement.
"I was at Atif's event last night. The timing for the concert was 8pm, and the public was there by 7pm, however the gate had not opened by 9pm, because of which the crowd outside the gate kept increasing and there was pushing and shoving.
"Then there was no one to check the passes, no one's pass got checked. All the people who got inside, entered without a pass, everyone got pushed at the gate. There was a lot of mismanagement, and there was no check for VIP, student or regular passes, everyone was gathered together, all the (grills?) had been broken, the people ran towards the stage, even then people were pushing each other.
"Finally Atif Aslam came, the concert was happening, and then Atif stopped in the middle of his song, There was a boy misbehaving with a girl, so Atif walked towards him while on the stage and told the boy, 'What is this rude behaviour? This woman could be your mother or your sister, this is no tareeqa, do you have no shame?' Then Atif brought the girls on stage and had them sent to a safer place, and then resumed his concert."
"But the mismanagement was alarming."
Many people are of the opinion that the harassment at the concert drives home the need for public events like the upcoming Karachi Eat to implement family- or women-only policies of admission. Organisers of the food festival were widely criticised for not permitting single men or groups of only men from entering its premises. It can be said that organisers' policies appear to have found more justification after the events of Saturday night.
Images has reached out to Atif Aslam and his assistant about the concert and is currently awaiting a response.