It's almost midnight and I am mindlessly scrolling through social media after a long day at work. The notification pings green as there is a viral video circulating on my work chat.
One more talk show, I mutter under my breath, as I hit play. What follows is a one of the most shameful sights Pakistan has ever witnessed on national television.
During a discussion surrounding Aurat March, writer and director Khalil-Ur-Rehman Qamar, known for his intolerance of women, is preaching his views. He is angry that the court has denied the petition to halt the movement, and women will now march for their rights.
Amidst this very anger, he is blatantly abusing guest Marvi Sirmed on the show, shredding the same izzat he advocates for, through the use of repulsive and obnoxious slurs.
While losing his cool, he says, "*What's in your body? Who the hell are you, go look at your body and face; no one even wants to spit on it. Don't talk in the middle, don't talk in between the lines. What is your body, bibi? Don't talk no bloody nonsense. you bloody shut up. B**ch!"
Sirmid, simply chants "mera jism, meri marzi" (my body, my choice) in the background, repeatedly, with determination, unmoved. The man is then triggered and proceeds to call her a ghatiya (vile) and badtameez aurat (disrespectful woman) as well as ullu ki pathi.
By now, I am fuming. I have stomped around my house five times, and the anger has now built like a whirlpool in my head – ready to explode. If you work in journalism, there are some protocols that need to be followed - eliminate the cuss words, work around to blur the abuses and slurs. We are left in a conundrum - it's tricky to translate the video for our audience.
Ironic, right? As a woman my work, my colleagues, and my entire organisation will be scrutinised under a moral compass if I am to merely TRANSLATE the words of a man, who has shamelessly vomited them out on national television.
Between all this, host Ayesha Ehtesham dismisses Sirmed, and says "Marvi sahiba, please, decorum ka khayal rakhein." (Ms. Marvi, please be mindful of the decorum).
However, based on the limited backlash on social media (we say limited because you'd be surprised by how many people actually support Qamar's views), Ayesha has since apologised for not condemning the director's sexist and outright abusive remarks.
Executive director for the news channel has also said sorry but the damage has already been done.
He really crossed the line this time
Why is a man like Khalil Ur Rehman Qamar invited to speak on a talk show regarding women or Aurat March? Has he contributed anything to their struggles? Has he been an ally to their problems? Has he provided them with anything but humiliation in the form of derogatory terms?
Sometimes indirectly through his dramas calling them 'do takay ki' aurat (worthless woman), and this time directly, on their face, through words such as "b**ch."
Remember, this is the same guy who said that if women want equality, they should go kidnap and gang-rape men.
What is hillarious is that this is the same confident man who, in his demeanor, claims to raise Pakistani society to the highest moral levels of co-existence, compartmentalises women into good and bad – bahaya aurat, behaya aurat, and does this by yelling, and I quote “ullu ki pathi, badtameez aurat, teri aisi ki taisi".
His behaviour in the above video is terrifying to say the least, not to mention triggering for the countless women who are subjected to this vitriol in public and behind closed doors.
If a man is this fearless in his delivery of profanity in front of millions of people, during a recorded show, forever archived, one wonders the extents of violence he could resort to when he doesn't have an audience - where there is no one recording him, no one mediating his conduct, and where he knows his actions and words will have zero consequences.
It's sickening that talk shows are no longer breeding grounds for productive discussions that could advocate for for safety, education and respectful co-existence in society. Instead, they have been are turned into entertainment platforms for harassers and unhinged men to openly threaten, discredit and disrespect women.
More so, it is shameful, that under the guise of an intellectual conversation, the host Ayesha Sohail (Ehtesham) invited a female guest on her show, only to participate in her humiliation. “Marvi sahiba please, aap apni baari pe baat karengi” (Ms. Marvi please, wait your turn to speak), she schools Sirmed, as the man continues to spew vulgar words at her, his aggression building up with every passing minute.
There are a lot of things that could've been done to halt this discomfort. The conversation could be cut short with the onset of an advertisement, the man could be muted for hate speech, or asked to control his own nafs and calculate the burden of his words on national television.
Yet he was let loose – like a venomous animal ready to shred apart the woman across him with no remorse.
You cannot help but ponder if perpetuating a heated debate at the cost of someone’s reputation is just another low tactic to rack up views and ratings in an industry that is constantly looking to capitalise on the next ‘hot topic.’
When you provide an obviously disturbed man to spew hate speech with a platform like this, you become part of a greater problem – a problem that is currently trending on social media for the rest of the world to see.
There are men lauding Mr. Rehman for abusing women. These are the same men, who holding the celebrity on a pedestal, believe it is completely acceptable to resort to violence, if they need to ‘teach the woman a lesson.’
Need I remind you, that Pakistan is the highest number of documented cases of honor killings, in the entire world. Need I also remind you, that the subject of this violence, are women and women alone.
If a man is this fearless in his delivery of profanity in front of an audience, during a recorded show that can be pulled out to show him the mirror at any given time, one wonders the extents of violence he could resort to behind closed walls; where there is no one recording him, no one mediating his conduct, and where he knows his actions and words will have zero consequences.
For Mr. Rehman and anyone who believes mera jism, meri marzi is a "ghatiya naara" (disgraceful chant), let me break it down for you one last time. The slogan represents bodily autonomy. It urges women all around the world to reclaim the rights to their own bodies. To stand up against marital rape, forced pregnancies in constant hope of birthing a boy, and female genital mutilation that takes place behind closed doors.
It means that women should have the freedom to walk on the streets, stand in tandoor lines, and use public transport without having their body parts groped or touched. That they should not be blamed for ‘inviting’ rape because their breathing has suddenly aroused a frustrated man around them.
If you think the slogan is equated to parading naked in the streets, it is transparent that the actual nudity lies in your own thoughts. Purify it.
If you are treating the women in your life right, you will not be threatened when they ask for their rights. It is only those who are hypocrites and sleazy in their double standards, who go off and resort to violence, both verbal and physical, when they realise the other gender are not subservient pawns.
If we had it our way, this would be the last post we publish about Khalil-Ur-Rehman Qamar, because he is done having our attention. We're redirecting our energy towards writing an email to PEMRA in order to urge them to take due action.
It's about time powerful men are held accountable for their actions.