Bilal Saeed started trending on Thursday after a video emerged of the singer arguing with a couple outside his home in Lahore, reportedly from January 10.
Three personnel of the Dolphin Force stood between them and tried to stop the violence. In the video, which was filmed from a neighbour’s house, Saeed first slaps a man, who the police have identified as his brother, and then grabs his shirt. The two exchange punches before they are separated by the police.
Saeed then turns to the woman and kicks her straight in the stomach. She attempts to kick back but is unable to block a punch to the head. The police and the other man then block him. Saeed then attempts to kick the woman again but is stopped by the police.
The two groups argue but it is unclear what they are saying.
The Raiwind police confirmed to Images that a complaint has not been filed against either party. ASP Haseeb Memon identified the couple as Saeed's brother and his girlfriend and said the police were called by the musician.
However, they resolved the issue themselves and no one filed an FIR, he said, which means the police can't take any action.
What Bilal Saeed had to say
Saeed addressed the video on his own Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. On Twitter, he wrote “every human has the right to live with dignity and security, regardless of gender".
He claimed that he is a believer in peace and referred to the attack as “establishing boundaries when that peace is repeatedly compromised by another, regardless of gender”. He said he was left with no option but to “react”.
Saeed also posted a video on Facebook in which he showed damage to a room in his house, purportedly caused by the couple he assaulted. The video showed scratches on a TV screen, rips in the upholstered wall covering, a broken lamp, a fallen mirror and a framed picture of Saeed placed on a table.
“I know how to respect a women and I know how to protect a women too [sic],” he wrote, claiming that he “raised his hand to protect his family”. The video, however, showed that Saeed was the first one to throw a punch.
Equating his act of violence with the destruction in the room, he said “this is what they did to me while I was away from my house”.
He also accused the pair of blackmail and unfair behaviour. “I stayed quiet because obviously as an artist my priority is my career but these people have been taking advantage of my situation for a very long time,” the singer wrote.
In a post on Instagram, the singer wrote that being famous was not a privilege. "I believe in bodily autonomy and safety for all. Violence against anyone whether man or woman is wrong but It is my right to protect myself and my loved ones if I am physically and verbally harmed and threatened," he said.
He said that he was not proud of engaging in a physical fight but justified that his was a "human" reaction to "all the torture" he has suffered. "I am sorry that my fans had to see this side of me and I do not intend to support or promote violence," he wrote.
He did not, however, apologise for the actual assault.
What happened after the video went viral
Making light of the physical altercation, many people began using the attack as fodder for memes that were offensive and showed Saeed's actions as heroics of some kind (we won't share them because we cannot give space to such callous material).
Not only that, Pakistani Twitter was divided over Saeed kicking and punching a woman in an unprovoked act of violence — with many, in a strange twist, bringing in Aurat March and women's demand for equal rights.
Thankfully, actor Osman Khalid Butt reminded everyone that this isn't normal behaviour. A normal reaction is never to assault someone, regardless of their gender.
"You can choose to hate feminist activism, but don't let that hate spring from ignorance. In plainer words, no, please, this is not what women mean when they're asking for equal rights," he wrote, pointing to the baseless tweets equating a woman being assaulted by a man to feminism and the call for equality.
What we have to say about this episode
It's strange for us to wrap our mind around the narrative that this violent episode is somehow a manifestation of women's struggle for equal rights.
This video doesn't have anything to do with women's rights — so we're not going to delve into that topic (although you can read this article if there's any confusion about feminism or this one which addresses misconceptions) — or with men's rights.
We're going to break it down in three simple points: firstly, violence is never okay, irrespective of the genders involved.
Public figures carry more responsibility in how they act and speak because they have a following, which is often young and impressionable. So they need to think about the consequences and impact of their actions.
And thirdly, whatever a person's reasons may be for resorting to violence, an apology should not be a list of excuses — it's always best to own up to your lapse of judgement and acknowledge it instead of writing it off as a "human" reaction.
With additional input from Imran Gabol in Lahore