Apprentice star claims she was sexually assaulted in Pakistan

Published: January 13, 2016


A former star of The Apprentice has claimed she was sexually assaulted by a gang of men in Pakistan while filming a BBC documentary in 2007.

“I was the only woman in this crowd. I was spotted and within minutes a group of men had circled me and hands were all over me while bodies pressed up against mine. I was rescued by our burly ‘fixer’ who carried me out,” Saira Khan said.

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Khan, whose parents were raised in Pakistan, further said, “I was shaking and shocked – and I was angry at myself for being so naive after everything I had grown up with.”

The TV presenter said she was surrounded by men who groped and pressed up against her as she tried to shoot the documentary. Khan, who was runner up in the first series of the show, narrated the harrowing experience on ITV’s Loose Women, saying she was eventually rescued by a member of her crew.

“In 2007, I was asked by the BBC to travel to Pakistan and make a documentary. One particular shoot was to take place on the day when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s birthday was celebrated. My all-male British team were nervous because thousands of Pakistani men were to gather in a square and I was to report from the crowd,” she wrote in a column for Mail On Sunday.

“Baaji, you never wear a dupatta. Does that mean you are also asking for it?”

“I was determined to do the piece and naively I thought: “Nothing will happen to me, it’s a spiritual day,” she added, referring to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s birthday celebration.

Continuing her story, she wrote she was dressed very modestly. “I was dressed in the native shalwaar kameez – long baggy trousers and a tunic to cover my body. I wore a scarf around my head to show respect.  All that was visible were my hands and face. With much persuasion, my director David allowed me to walk by myself near a crowd of men.”

The TV presenter also accused the BBC of ignoring the attack and the issue that “Asian, Arab and African men grow up in societies where misogyny is the cultural norm”.

“Understanding how African and Asian men view and treat women in their own countries is crucial when dealing with the migrant crisis – because only when we understand their cultural practices can we help them to integrate. They need to understand that women are deemed equal to men in Western societies,” she said.

“Here in the West, we need to stop burying our heads in the sand and accept that Asian, Arab and African men grow up in societies where misogyny is the cultural norm. We need to talk about it so we can change it,” she added.

Sexual abuse of young boys on the rise in Pakistan: watchdog

Khan continued that ignoring this mindset is equivalent to condoning it. “Ignoring it, like the BBC did, is just condoning it. If we are allowing people to come in, we must also make sure that we are not blinded by some truths which are hard to swallow. It is a betrayal of the truth, of the majority of decent migrants and – most of all – of women who must not see progress turned back for the sake of accommodating a medieval world view.”

This article originally appeared on Daily Mail

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Omer Ali
    Jan 13, 2016 - 7:28PM

    Women you went to the land of animals what else you expected and as a counter argument why you bringing it up after so many years?Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jan 13, 2016 - 8:16PM

    Understand her anguish and feel terribly sorry for what happened with her but saying that Asian men are misogynists is like painting everyone with the same brush. The world is where it is because of this fundamental problem of generalizing things. You can’t. You just can’t say all Indians are rapists or all Madrassa students are terrorists because that would be, in plane words, a lie.
    Can she or anyone for that matter can claim that no women has ever been groped or raped by natives of Scandinavian countries? No. So are those people misogynists as well? Certainly No.

    Every one involved in sexual crimes is a criminal and no more then that. Don’t call them Muslims or Christians or Asians or Europeans. Treat them like they need to be treated. I am in no way trying to defend the perpetrators of incidents in Cologne.Recommend

  • Shakil Ahmed Khan
    Jan 13, 2016 - 8:17PM

    Now was it because men wanted to touch her or was it too crowded and everyone wanted to be on BBC? these are two difference scenarios!
    I still wouldnt rule out frustrated lot even though they were at religious gathering though.

    There is a reason Police deployed on markets during eid shopping periods, where they stop these frustrated lot to enter to markets full of women!Recommend

  • AKhan
    Jan 13, 2016 - 9:09PM

    She is just scoring points. I personally know her and all of her family members.
    Nothing as such never happend to her.Recommend

  • Quresh
    Jan 13, 2016 - 9:55PM

    @Omer Ali: Good and bad people are everywhere. Pakistan is not Land of animal. But you have good point, why she is bringing this issue now. Recommend

  • Amna
    Jan 13, 2016 - 10:04PM

    What was she doing in men`s crowd?Recommend

  • Riaz Ahmed
    Jan 14, 2016 - 12:12AM

    I think it is simply an attempt to score some points. While misogyny may be common but it is extremly unlikely that most men in public will swarm a woman and grop her with scores of hands all over her body. It simply doesnt happen as a norm. Hundreds and thousands of women go out in crowded places in most urban areas full of men and continue their normal activities. Actually it is her own inability to understand and have cultural sensitivity if where she is operating. Besides generalising to say that all men in Asia and Africa are mysogynists is plain stupid.Recommend

  • Afzal
    Jan 14, 2016 - 2:20AM

    She is a self hater scoring points, if she said some good about Pakistan it would not have been mainstream news, the west always promoting bad news about Pakistan, a lot of Pakistani in the west are self haters and discriminate against their own people !! Recommend

  • Jan 14, 2016 - 2:42AM

    Look like fishy story to me.Recommend

  • Mahmood
    Jan 14, 2016 - 2:51AM

    She has also appeared on British TV with the same story. Obviously, what happened to her was terrible and quite believable given that a section of male population in Pakistan is very capable of such perversion. Having said that, given her background, didn’t she know any better ? Recommend

  • Nathan Singh Chilghozaywala
    Jan 14, 2016 - 3:04AM

    Good thing she wasn`t in India. She would have been raped and hospitalized just like most other poor women there.Recommend

  • Nathan Singh
    Jan 14, 2016 - 3:05AM

    Sounds like someone wants more free publicity and air time. She might even join the lawsuit agaisnt Bill Cosby in near future for fame.Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jan 14, 2016 - 5:18AM

    You mean they were just trying to figure out whether s/he was man or woman ?Recommend

  • Shakil Ahmed Khan
    Jan 14, 2016 - 5:33AM

    Does that give those men right to assault her?Recommend

  • Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
    Jan 14, 2016 - 8:02AM

    I have worked and filmed in Pakistan since 2001- I have often been the only woman in a large crowd of very menacing looking men but thankfully I have never felt threatened sexually or had any men make an untowered adances- I am sad to hear of her experience and what she went through- Recommend

  • Old Ravian
    Jan 14, 2016 - 9:40AM

    Publicity stunt ! The story might be true but coming out eight years later at opportune time ………………………Recommend

  • Furqan
    Jan 14, 2016 - 9:42AM

    Cooked up story!Recommend

  • khattak
    Jan 14, 2016 - 10:36AM

    Definitely nothing as such can be ruled out anywhere in the world including Pakistan. Still knowing Pakistani society (being a critical Pakistan and not in a state of denial at all); I believe if something like this ever happen in the Pakistani street and the women just call for help; the next moment the whole crowd will be on top of the assaulter(s) to protect her.

    Those who knows Pakistani society will also realuse that this story seems a bit fishy. Nevertheless Pakistan has many Gender based violence issues to address.Recommend

  • Ayyan Ali
    Jan 14, 2016 - 11:09AM

    I Have been to crowded places lot of times, this kind of situation never happened with me, they might just wanted to be your friends by getting closer, nothing to be scared dear. Might wanted to hug u, that’s all Recommend

  • Qashif
    Jan 14, 2016 - 11:09AM

    A crafted Story – she just wana got some limelight….Recommend

  • G
    Jan 14, 2016 - 11:20AM

    @Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy:
    @Old Ravian:

  • Saad
    Jan 14, 2016 - 12:04PM

    We should analyze this incident critically. There are few reasons which make this incident doubtful. First of all, if this actually happened to her Why she hide this for several years? why she didnot speak at that time? Secondly, the selection of day is amazed me. at that particular day even common muslim belevier thinks twice before commititng a small sin instead a large number of people molested her? Finally this story seems to me a publicity stunt as she generalized this for all asian men and presenting west more civilized and respectful to women. Really? Have she ever checked the fact and figures regarding rape cases in west? western countries like USA are way ahead in list of raping countries than pakistan and other muslim countries.
    I dnt know why some pakistani people way too far to get sympathy and popularity in other countries and international media.Recommend

  • Wizarat
    Jan 14, 2016 - 1:01PM

    @Riaz Ahmed:
    I guess you all need to take your head out of the sand, don’t be an ostrich. It is normal in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, etc the men look at women as if they are really from venus. their eyes popping out from head to toe exam.
    In the rural areas where women folks work the fields is another story. The reason you have not heard about it is because the women folks do not want to demean themselves by discussing it.

    Watch the TV programs and you would know how often this happens.
    It is a shame that even some women would say that she asked for it. As Amna questioned why she went there.

    She is a reporter and was doing her job.

    I cannot verify her story but condoning the actions is not the way to go. We all have daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers too. Just remember that, and work on making it safe for them.Recommend

  • Anjum Arshi
    Jan 14, 2016 - 1:29PM

    Scores of Pakistani TV Channels’ female reporters do programs from all parts of the country, and a large number of them work with all-men crowds. We have not heard any complaints from them. Generally speaking, Pakistani men are respectful of women professionals. This ‘animal like behavior’ reported by this person is definitely not the norm in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Mushabir Zaki
    Jan 14, 2016 - 2:10PM

    And nobody corroborated her story? not even BBC. Come on! Point scoring…Recommend

  • brar
    Jan 14, 2016 - 5:46PM

    Such incedents often take place in our countries but I can not under stand why most of my friends are in denial mode.Recommend

  • Nasser
    Jan 14, 2016 - 9:25PM

    Her story seems to be cooked up. Reasons…
    1. She says she was modestly dressed in Shalwar Kameez and baggy trouser. Well shalwar and baggy trouser ….both at a time?
    2. It was a live show….why it was not aired ? Since when foreign media has become so friendly to Pakistan to miss a chance like this to ridicule it ?Recommend

  • np
    Jan 15, 2016 - 12:50AM

    @Nathan Singh Chilghozaywala: Ridiculous. In India civil socit protest rpe so they are reported global;ly. The raper 1000 people in India are one tenth of motern countries. As far as Pakstan s concerned do youexpect womn to report rapein acountry where they hae practicallyno chance o securing a coniction due to he evidentiary requiremn of 4 good Muslimmen. Add tthat the honour killing issue. Just e rapes arenot meant r.
    @Nasser: She is explaininga shalwar by callng it a bggy trouser.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jan 15, 2016 - 1:16AM


    The comments show how disassociated many Pakistanis have become from basic humanity.

    So if she was in a crowd of men the men have the right to assault her?

    Is it too much to ask that the men just behave respectfully towards her?

    I hope you and the 27 people who recommended your idiotic comment are never ever allowed outside Pakistan as you will bring nothing but shame on this country.Recommend

  • Wasif
    Jan 15, 2016 - 2:46AM

    I’m damn sure that she visits Los Angles’ nightclubs and bars every night.Recommend

  • hira bokharee
    Jan 15, 2016 - 3:25AM

    It’s sad to see that nearly all of the messages from men are saying it’s a fishy cooked up story.She should have known better, why was she in a crowded place? I’ve seen a man at Punjab university lifting up his shirt exposing himself, I’ve seen men trying to get soo close and touch my back and front… Not saying all Pakistani men are that hideous, but there are lots who will take advantage… Recommend

  • Amna
    Jan 15, 2016 - 7:19AM

    Mind your language looser.First of all you have to learn how to speak with a woman.People like you just like to blame others without any facts,because they have their own history of criminal records.Shame on you.
    I’m still firm in my opinions.Yes,most of the men are wrong,but women are also humans and they can be equally wrong as men as well.
    For your kind information,most of the women in Western countries already have sexual relations with men before marriage,and everyone knows that.Recommend

  • Atheist_Pakistani
    Jan 15, 2016 - 10:07AM

    These people need to understand the way of life in Europe which is high literacy rate is not very much common in most of the unfortunate part of the worldRecommend

  • Junaid
    Jan 15, 2016 - 11:36AM

    Total fake story!
    I never belive this, she wants fame only….
    Pople of pakistan always respect women even in gattering…Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jan 15, 2016 - 1:45PM


    I have seen in person what Saira says she went through.

    It was horrific.

    A lot of the men / boys I witnessed had topis and beards.

    Whether a woman has sexual relations by consent in the West is no excuse to assault someone/her without consent (I think that is your argument / position).

    I hope you are never allowed to visit a western country given your views. Recommend

  • M.Imtiaz Ahmadani
    Jan 15, 2016 - 3:52PM

    I don’t think it will help her in advertising the documentry specially on 12 rabiul awal.Shame on her and who believe on it.Recommend

  • abhi
    Jan 15, 2016 - 9:28PM

    If she had said this about India everybody would have agreed but how can she say this about Pakistan?Recommend

  • Komal S
    Jan 15, 2016 - 10:01PM

    When a woman speaks out, this is what men like you do. I would rather believe her than you.Recommend

  • Aziz
    Jan 16, 2016 - 3:39PM

    Saira Khan:

    If true then this is a very sad and condemnable incident. Why bring it up now? Any does BBC hold a general view that “all Asian and African” men are gropers and villagers of women. This is a colonial view deliberately perpetuated to justify colonial looting and pilferage at industrial scale.

    Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s experience runs quite contrary to yours (please read her accompanying letter to this report). She is already an internationally known celebrity and a Pakistani woman.

    Readers would have to make their own judgement about who is likely to pull a stunt?Recommend

  • Snm
    Jan 16, 2016 - 6:09PM

    Over zealous people trying to get on tv might have caused her to think people had sexually assaulted her. Didn’t read the article completely but what took her so long? Recommend

  • Marc Leblanc
    Jan 16, 2016 - 10:46PM


    even if you do know her, you could not know it never happenedRecommend

  • lubna
    Jan 19, 2016 - 9:22AM

    Sounds like a fake story to me. Being a woman myself, I travel by myself in Karachi with

    utmost ease, infact I go for my business trips across Pakistan without even covering my head

    and have never faced such issues! (Except for a few tribal areas)

    Either her intentions are to defame my country or perhaps she needs to learn to carry herself,

    more gracefully before going out in the crowd next time.Recommend

  • Marc leblanc
    Jan 19, 2016 - 10:49AM

    This certainly happens in my country, Canada

    not much reason to make this upRecommend

  • Mrs Naseer
    Jan 29, 2016 - 1:59PM

    If this happen in the presence of bbc camera man then there should be recording of this incident. Recommend

  • Awais
    Feb 1, 2016 - 3:10PM

    Actually, when you are appealing, and you are confronted with an uneducated crowd , which finds such event not less than a chance to satisfy their sexual appetite , you cannot blame them..Recommend

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