Not only Imran Khan, the media needs to be put on trial for harassing Ayesha Gulalai as well

Amidst the hostile environs surrounding Pakistani politics, we observe how Imran Khan – who promises to bring righteousness in Pakistani politics – is again under fire following scathing allegations made by his former party worker, lawmaker and Member of the National Assembly Ayesha Gulalai.

However, a major section of the mainstream media has launched volley of slut-shaming against the complainant, going to any length to prove Imran Khan’s innocence even before any investigation has taken place.

Although Imran Khan has termed the allegations against him groundless and welcomed an inquiry into the matter, the Pakistani media is habitually involved in intimidating women who dare to speak out against harassment in our highly patriarchal society.

The media brigade immediately put the accuser on trial instead of asking the accused to prove his innocence – although it was a positive development that Imran Khan himself volunteered for a probe on the issue.

Gulalai’s media trial only mirrors our societal behavior, which instead of supporting the suppressed tends to stand with the powerful, especially when it comes to defending women’s rights.

We are the people who don’t allow women to even express their displeasures and harassment by their male counterparts and try to throw every such issue under the carpet by deciding that any woman who claims abuse is actually a liar and opportunist.

It is ironic to see famous faces from the news industry snubbing Gulalai on screen by claiming to be close friends of Imran Khan and downplaying any wrongdoing by the Tehreek-e-Insaf chief.

The question as to why she did not file a complaint against IK in 2013 when she received the first inappropriate message from him is valid. Even so, how can one ignore the fact that the repercussions of blaming a man of indecent behavior are not something desirable for women in Pakistan – but yes it needs a probe to understand all sides of the story.

Cases of sexual misconduct are nothing new and we have previously seen an American president, Bill Clinton, on trial over the matter of sexual harassment.

The incident came to spotlight in 1998, three years after it took place.

However, the only difference between a patriarchal and civilized world is that they don’t crush the females for claiming such abuse and instead ask the accused to prove their innocence.

Whether Aisha is telling the truth or taking advantage of the situation is yet to be investigated. Nevertheless, she has been called a liar, greedy and an opportunist, who is blackmailing Imran Khan through the noble media persons in an ignominious way.

In addition to this, she has been receiving death threats along with the harassment for leaving the party.

Gulalai’s media trial seems like a reminder of the cases of Qandeel Baloch, Asia Bibi and Salmaan Taseer, who were all taught a bitter lesson of what mania our mainstream press was capable of.

I still remember the tirade that the media unleashed upon poor Qandeel for posting her pictures with Mufti Abdul Qavi. A large section of press and TV channels, instead of questioning Qavi’s claims of piety, went on to dig the past of the deceased to bury her sardonic approach to the clergy and the society under the deep mud.

No matter how funny it might’ve seemed, but the pictures Qandeel posted emitted the dual standards of the clergy who love to be in the spotlight and sneak around female celebrities, but stay mute over brutal women’s rights violations such as honor killings, rapes, child marriages, forced conversions and domestic violence.

And the media seems to question a woman’s character blatantly, but find itself at odds when it comes to having a man answer for his deeds out of keeping.

In 2016, a Senator Hafiz Hamdullah (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F) threatened to rape a well-known journalist Marvi Sirmed on a live TV show, but got away with it conveniently without any media trial.

He even refused to apologise and stood by his obnoxious remarks about Ms. Sirmed, and nobody could dare confront him till date.

IK’s contentment with the denial of the allegations is not at all surprising. He is in safe hands, irrespective of whether he is guilty or not, because the social trait of putting women on trial for reporting abuse would keep the odds in his favour anyway.

So one can’t put any blame on the fanatics alone who have been hindering women empowerment through the promotion of ultra conservative thoughts among people.

It is also the Pakistani media that entertains these misogynistic thoughts which marginalize the women in our society.

There are two choices for women: follow the stereotypes designed to subjugate them as per the will of men or face fierce inquisition without being given an opportunity to defend oneself.

There are media ethics related to professionalism which imply to self-accountability. It further endorses the commitment to right errors and provide remedies for being cynical and unfair, which Pakistani media lacks.

Aisha Gulalai and Imran Khan should be given a fair chance to bring forward their case in an unbiased environment.

And the media should handle such matters with impartiality – because during such inquisitions, it’s the women who have to bear the most.

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