Journalist Asma Shirazi and PTI Media Representative Dr Shahbaz Gill were recently invited to Nasim Zehra's Channel 24 talk show to speak about Imran Khan's one-day meeting in Lahore last weekend, only to have a tense moment on air.
Just as he was welcomed into the panel, Shahbaz said, "I think Asma Shirazi is a hardcore PML-N supporter and I respect it and she has an association with them." Host Nasim immediately cut him off despite his insistence that she let him continue, and said, "No. Shahbaz, hold on a second, I need to say this. She (Asma) criticises everyone (all parties). Let's stay with the facts. I needed to say this. I'm sorry. But you need to respond to her (Asma's) criticism [not her work]."
Shahbaz responded that this "is also freedom of speech." And continued, "Just like she has the right to say anything about me, I have the right to say anything about her. You (Asma) are a very competent journalist, I only talked about your tilt."
Asma immediately stepped in and said, "No Shahbaz, wait a minute, now you will listen to me. You are saying the wrong thing. You are constantly accusing me. Prove yourself. You should think before throwing these accusations"
Nasim intervened, "Shahbaz you must take back what you said, you have pointed fingers at Asma's zaat. You are a spokesperson, you have attacked her zaat, you should talk on your facts. You have to take it back."
Later, Shahbaz Gill responded to Asma's tweet, but he wasn't sold on apologising for what he had said on the show.
Viewers and critics have long opposed the quality of discourse on Pakistani prime time talk shows, which often devolve into arguments, personal attacks and the use of foul language, especially with regard to women.
We're all for women standing up for each other and holding men accountable, and this tussle shows that anchors and guests alike are refusing to back down especially during personal attacks.
Twitter lauded Asma for standing up for herself.
Last year, TV anchor Shahzeb Khanzada called out Mustafa Kamal for his sexist remark on TV, which goes to show that prime time presenters are taking a stand by calling out casual sexism and bad behaviour on air and being more proactive about respecting women in the workplace.
On another occasion, activist Jibran Nasir also reportedly questioned the inherent sexism of having manels on TV talk shows for a discussion of women-centric issues: “When we’re talking about women please make sure that the panel has a majority representation of them. Men are supposed to support the views of women; we are not supposed to be representing them.”
And that's a trend we can get behind.