ISLAMABAD: Rights campaigner Marvi Sirmed filed an application against Senator Hafiz Hamdullah on Saturday hours after he allegedly threatened her and attempted to thrash her during a television show.
In her application Sirmed asked the police to book the JUI-F senator for intimidating her and subjecting her to verbal abuse.
The incident provoked a fiery response from lawmakers and rights activists and the civil society alike.
The JUI-F senator, Marvi Sirmed and Barrister Masroor and PTI’s Fayyazul Hassan Chohan were guests on a show aired by News One TV on Friday to discuss the recent honour killings, women protection laws and the role of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
Heated arguments between Sirmed and Hamdullah ensued after she started speaking. The two exchanged harsh words. The television channel censored some remarks and showed the senator abruptly leaving the show.
Soon after the incident, Sirmed took to Twitter and Facebook, saying Hamdullah had showered expletives upon her. “I returned the volley with a flurry of my own, targeting the women of his family. And then he tried to beat me. All of this is recorded on camera,” Sirmed said in a series on tweets on the microblogging website Twitter.
Sirmed filed an application with Kohsar police the same say day requesting the police to book the senator for verbally abusing and threatening to kill her during the TV show. Sirmed also stated that the senator charged and tried to beat her up but she was rescued by Chohan and the TV staff.
Police are learnt to have admitted the application and launched an investigation. Despite repeated attempts, Hafiz Hamdullah was unavailable for comment.
Also on Saturday, PTI leader Shireen Mazari protested over the unseemly conduct of Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Hafiz Hamdullah for verbally abusing human rights activist Marvi Sirmed on a live TV show.
Raising the issue in the National Assembly, Mazari pressed lawmakers to take action on incidents of abuse against women. “Raised Marvi Sirmed issue and condemned JUI-F Senator in NA this morning! But PML-N women MNAs shamefully continuing to belittle abuse of women,” Mazari tweeted.
Later, she commented that it was even more disturbing to see some women from PML-N contending that women should safeguard their honour – meaning if a woman was raped, she was responsible.
In reaction, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman tweeted: “Absolutely and completely unacceptable. Do ECP qualification rules allow a legislator to use such foul language?” Later, Rehman, replying to another Tweet, said: “I have sent the Senate chairman a message already. No senator should be allowed to just walk away.”
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus
Members of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC) also condemned the incident.
MNA and WPC Secretary Shaista Pervaiz, said: “The obnoxious behavior and language used by the Senator for a woman, was deplorable and absolutely unacceptable.” However, she stated that Barrister Masroor, another panellist in the program, should not have used derogatory remarks for CII chief Maulana Sherani.
Civil society’s reactions
Farzana Bari, human rights activist and an academic on gender studies, dubbed the incident shocking and upsetting.
Harris Khalique, writer and social activist, commented: “There is no analysis needed when a woman is insulted for being a woman. It is highly despicable. But I see a silver lining in this particular case. The bigots are intellectually bankrupt and have no arguments left. Their rage manifests as does their helplessness. The possibility of their extinction is making them nervous.”
Members of Ending Violence Against Women and Girls Alliance condemned the incident. They also condemned the verbal abuse by Khwaja Asif against Shireen Mazari, saying such behavior was “unacceptable and cannot be tolerated”. They termed it a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution and also a disregard of CEDAW to which Pakistan is a party.
All activists and lawmakers called for the removal of CII chairman and cancellation of membership of Senator Hafiz Humdullah and Minister Khawaja Asif.
Meanwhile, JUI-F’s senior leader Kamran Murtaza said that his party did not support Humdullah’s behavior and was apologetic about it. But, at the same time, he said, the cleric alone was not to be blamed, adding that both Barrister Masroor and Sirmed got a bit carried away during the show. “The incident is not justified … and it should not ever happen to any woman or man.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 12th, 2016.