Director Sohail Javed, who is best known for working on commercials and music videos featuring Hadiqa Kiyani and Junoon, has filed a suit against fellow director Jami Mahmood for defamation.
It all began when Jami Mahmood read out a letter from an anonymous sexual assault survivor at the Lahooti Melo, a festival held in Jamshoro that focused on the #MeToo movement in its theme. The letter that Jami read out was from an unnamed survivor who described being assaulted by a very well-known figure in the entertainment industry. She did not name her alleged abuser in the letter. Jami did not name an alleged abuser either.
After the festival, on February 14th 2019, Jami took to Facebook to share the text of this letter, saying: "This is the letter i tried reading at Lahooti Melo. This letter is from a survivor of sexual assault. A young survivor of brutal attack by a music video and TVC Director."
In the letter, the assault survivor describes her ordeal in detail, saying: "When his son was leaving, he went after him and closed the door behind him when coming back. I didn’t give it much thought. When he found me lost and on the verge of crying, he came towards me, manipulating me and portraying himself with his sweet wordplay as someone I can confide in as he’s been through so much in his life too. I burst out in tears and that’s when he found his moment to act. Pretending to a solace, a healer, he groped me, while simultaneously switching the concert clip to a pre-downloaded porn clip in a second. This wasn’t the first time I was being subjected to something like this. My childhood trauma resurfaced, rendering me frozen. I felt broken, worthless, confused, betrayed…everything at once. I was numb, immobile."
As the letter circulated on social media, members of the industry expressed disgust and began to question who the perpetrator could be. At the same time, Jami posted on his social media that his production company would no longer work with accused harassers or those that support them.
On February 18th, Sohail Javed served Jami a legal notice, a copy of which is in Images' possession, asking him to tender an "unconditional public apology on the same/equal forum" which was used to publish the letter. The legal notice also asked Jami to cease making "any more false, malicious defamatory remarks" against Sohail Javed. Earlier, the legal notice stated that "although [the Facebook post] does not explicitly mention our client [Sohail Javed], nevertheless it has insinuated to the general public and specially people from the field of show business that the person/predator being referred to is our client."
Jami's legal team replied to this notice on March 9th, denying all accusations and saying that "at the time of copy-pasting the contents of the letter, my client was not aware of the identity of the individual termed as the 'predator'."
Also on March 9th, Sohail Javed filed a defamation lawsuit against Jami Mahmood, asking for the aforementioned posts by Jami to be removed. He further asked that Jami pay him Rs500 million in damages and Rs500 million for mental torture.
Speaking to Images, Jami says: "When the letter never mentioned any names, it is very surprising that someone has come forward with this suit."
Of the letter that was read out at the Lahooti Melo, co-founder Sana Khawja says: "The letter was read anonymously, by a person who would not be named. We dedicated the entire festival to this theme of harassment; it is not about a particular person, it is about the patriarchy."
Speaking to Images, Sohail Javed says: "If so many people are taking my name, and there is no clarification from those who have posted this letter, then it is my right to take action in a court of law."
The parties have been directed to appear before the court tomorrow (Friday).