Women’s March: My life, My body & My choice.

A sleeping monster awakes in Pakistan!

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By Nazarul Islam, Copy Edited by Adam Rizvi, TIO: Pakistani audience (women) love their mini-screen actors—they are enthralled by the pretty faces, which imitate life, and enable them to live their own little fantasies. A monstrous media in the country sells dreams and passions, in powerful, emotional and often very beautiful settings. People enjoy and sleepover episodes. The next day, there shall be another fantasy…and another dream to live with.

Television episodes in the country have mesmerized audiences; these shows have also polarised Pakistani women who had recently, turned over to Facebook to strike out at least one extremely popular drama series from being aired further.
Women’s march, Pakistan
And simply because of the sensitivities involved in such controversial themes, viewers obviously felt that the writer, Khalilur ur Rehman Qamar, had perhaps lost both his balance and sense of direction in the musings of his misogynistic, storytelling.
As his shows gained in momentum, Qamar courted even greater controversy—particularly, after he had appeared on talk shows to justify that his script had made sense in the real world. This only had inflamed the situation, by suggesting that ‘women should gang rape men if they want equality’ and that ‘women are able to resist temptation while men are unable to do so.’ Twenty-three episodes had run successfully from August 2019 to January on a private channel, to become the most-watched show and drama serial in Pakistan. Qamar has boasted:’I do not drag the stories or write a sequel. And I won’t criticize any other writer either.’
The writer irked had many last weeks when he states he ‘does not consider all women to be women’. When asked if he respects them, Qamar responded, ‘I often say that a good man cannot run society but a good woman can. Unlike men, a woman can say no. When a man doesn’t refuse, home gets ruined. But when a woman doesn’t refuse, a whole generation goes down the hill’.
In the wake of recent embroiled controversies, Pakistani director Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar had been slammed by netizens, politicians, and celebrities for abusing fellow panelists, journalist Marvi Sirmed during a live television discussion.

In a video of the Neo TV show that has continued to circulate online, Qamar found himself defending his views on Aurat March (women’s march)…..after he started hurling open abuses at Sirmed. That obviously has slammed his doors, as a Pakistani writer of meritorious content!

Celebrity storytellers in Pakistan have secretly loved to live in their controversies. Reason: these sell fast, and provide quick fodders….(and are) transformed into gossips. Perhaps, they will even create a ‘new’ controversy to remain afloat in leaner times. In one recent episode, Qamar was particularly outraged by the slogan, ‘my body, my choice’ which is at the heart of the march that is set to take place in Pakistan on International Women’s Day, being a Sunday.
In the ‘fatal’ clip, Qamar had called the movement ‘filthy’ as Sirmed is heard repeatedly, saying the slogan. The exchange soon got even more heated as Qamar started cursing at Sirmed. Qamar also body-shamed Sirmed to retort: ‘No one would even spit on your body.’
This had brought the situation out of control and the celebrity writer into the hangman’s noose. Now Qamar has chastised for the foul language he used against Sirmed that had explained his ‘stance’ against feminism in Pakistan. Women are after the writer’s blood; they will stop nothing short of his ‘exorcism’, whatever be the costs and consequences.
The president of the channel had also offered an unconditional apology to Sirmed, according to Pakistani newspapers.
In the past, Qamar had come under fire for portraying women in a bad light in his television dramas. His recent drama serial called ‘Meray Paas Tum Ho’ had gained a big fan following but there were many who deemed the show as blatantly misogynistic. Qamar, who has liked to call himself ‘Pakistan’s biggest feminist’ in the past, is constantly vocal on women’s issues but his comments usually gained traction for their controversial and often misogynistic nature.
Following Qamar’s recent comments, several celebrities and public figures have slammed his remarks. ‘Let him go bite the dirt…and go to the dogs!’
Pakistani politician and parliamentary leader of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Sherry Rehman, @sherryrehman, expressed her outrage over the situation: ‘I will not accept any show on @NeoTv_Network until this anchor apologizes and this abusive man boycotted. If others (men and women) do the same when asked for shows this kind of disrespect to women may not get impunity. Women’s rights are human rights. Enough of this nonsense.”
Actress Mahira Khan, @TheMahiraKhan, also called out Qamar and tweeted: ‘I am shocked at what I have just heard and seen! Sick to the core. This same man who abused a woman on TV is revered and given project after project because of what? We are as much to blame if not more for perpetuating this thinking!’
The host of the show Ayesha Ehtesham, @ayeshasohaileh4, took to Twitter and apologized for what transpired between Sirmed and Qamar, describing it as an “extremely sorry state of affairs”.
She wrote: “What happened yesterday on my show was an extremely sorry state of affairs. I could not imagine things could turn out to be so rough and abusive. I was completely taken aback which might have affected my ability to condemn abusive and sexist remarks there and then. However, nothing on my part was intentional. There was quite a lot of screaming, shouting & swearing from both sides (part of a program that could not go on air) that left little room for me to reverse things back to normal or come up with a prompt condemnation. I apologize to my viewers.”
After Qamar’s remarks had aired, the incident was widely discussed on social media and Pakistani netizens were furious. A number of women rallied online to get Qamar banned from television.
Tweet@hamnazubair wrote: “Every major actor and actress in Pakistan needs to issue a statement saying they will not act in a drama or movie written by #khalilurrehmanqamar. That is what needs to happen. Who among you has the courage and the ethics to do this?”
Over the past two years, the Aurat March in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi  has turned into a prominent movement against the patriarchal structures of the
Pakistani society.
The movement has referred to protests organized in various cities of Pakistan including Lahore, Hyderabad, Karachi, and Islamabad, to observe International Women’s Day on March 8, this year. The country-wide event has been a source of inspiration and fanfare, attended by thousands of people in the last two years and it is set to take place again on Sunday, the 8th March 2020.
The protestors, mainly women, have on this day of the year, rallied to get equal rights in a highly patriarchal society— that is Pakistan—with slogans promoting gender equality both at home and public spaces. Last year, many protesters had also been seen holding posters condemning cases of honor killings, rapes and domestic abuse against women that have happened over the years.
These protests, however, had resulted in a strong backlash against the participants and organizers of the march. Those against it had believed that the resistance movement goes against the cultural, religious and social norms of Pakistan.
The Lahore High Court (LHC) was petitioned last month to place restrictions on the organizers and participants of the march, whom the complainant said had an agenda to “spread anarchy, vulgarity, blasphemy and hatred” against Islam, according to a local newspaper.
The court dismissed the petition and allowed protestors to go ahead with their plans to carry out the event on Sunday.
Reportedly, LHC Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh said during the hearing: ‘Under the law and Constitution of the country, the Aurat March cannot be stopped’
However, the court ordered organizers to ensure participants adhere to ‘decency and moral values’
In another incident of trying to stop the march, a mural that was being painted was vandalized by clerics from Lal Masjid in Islamabad…..
Qamar has vowed (ego got the best of him) he will not change the way he writes since no one can ‘dare’ to make him change his style and content. And if actors who are calling him out are capable enough, they can write and he can do the acting. ‘Anyone who would try to change my writing would never be seen in any of my dramas or films, the director, whose recent release Kaaf Kangana, bombed at the box office, has lamented: “Isn’t it unfortunate that a man who defends his script is called rude? My dialogues are poetic. A pause in the rhythm ruins the entire scene. Hence, I need to express my anger. Now it is up to you, how you label it.”
Will wonders cease in Pakistan?
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Nazarul Islam

The author is a former Educator, based in Chicago (USA).

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