During a TV talk show this Friday, June 10, Pakistani Senator Hafiz Hamdullah verbally abused Marvi Sirmed, an analyst on the program and a human rights activist, even threatening the woman with rape. Hamdullah, a representative of the religious political party Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), has spoken abusively on live television to political opponents before.
Shortly after the program was recorded, Sirmed wrote about the experience on Facebook, triggering an uproar, and leading to a police report and calls for Senator Hamdullah to be prosecuted:
I've just undergone a very traumatic experience at a News One program (Nadia Mirza Show) when Hafiz Hamdullah of JUIF got angry on a comment by Barrister Masroor. When my turn came, I started my comment by saying “I agree with Masroor sahib to the extent that…” and here Hamdullah cut me and went on and on with his arrogance and rudeness. I responded in almost the same coin. And that's when he started abusing me with worst possible expletives. Called me a whore and said “tumhaari shalwaar utaar dooN ga aur tumhaari maaN ki bhi” (I will take off your trousers and your mothers). I returned this to his own family women. And then he tried to beat me. All of this recorded in camera. Fayaz ul Hassan Chauhan held him so his punches don't reach me. He had to be taken away by the News One security.
And this religious merchant was fasting while he did all this.
Ironically, the incident took place while taping a show dedicated to the debate in Pakistan about so-called “honor killings” (the practice killing of a relative, especially a girl or woman, who is perceived to have brought dishonor on the family) and the silence on the issue from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII)—a 20-member constitutional body, created in 1962, that provides non-binding advice to the government about the religious aspects of the law and society. The CII has also been faulted for failing to acknowledge violence more generally against women.
The Council of Islamic Ideology recently came under criticism for drafting legislation that would permit husbands to “beat their wives lightly.” Hamdullah, incidentally, chairs the Senate’s Religious and Interfaith Harmony Committee.
On the TV show, panelist Barrister Masroor suggested insultingly that CII Chairman Cleric Maulana Sherani and Senator Hamdullah were “pee k soey hue hain’” (sleeping after becoming intoxicated). Masroor went on to criticize the CII for condoning violence against women. The anchor then turned to Sirmed and asked for her opinion about the CII's position on women's rights and its failure to condemn honor killings. Sirmed sided with Masroor, enraging Hamdullah, who began shouting. The argument escalated to such a degree that Hamdullah ultimately threatened Sirmed with rape.
Fight Between Hafiz. Video: Shoaibvideos
The edited video clip omits the rape threat and verbal abuse. Sirmed shared details of the attempted physical assault on her Facebook page and on another TV show, after pressing criminal charges against Hamdullah. While the video footage showing the attempted physical assault hasn't been released yet, Barrister Masroor tweeted in support of Sirmed and corroborated her story:
— Barrister Masroor (@BarristerMShah) June 10, 2016
After Sirmed shared her story, several others came forward to speak about the abuse they've faced from Hamdullah.
Parliamentarian Dr. Arif Alvi spoke out in support of Sirmed and shared his own experience:
I am appalled.This abusive guy once threatened me on air کہ میں تمہاری زبان کاٹ دوں گا (I'll chop your tongue off) Shameful.Shud be banned on TV https://t.co/BwWR0jxK5D
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) June 10, 2016
Internet user Rana Waleed listed others who have faced abuse from Hamdullah in the past, including several TV anchors:
— Rana Waleed (@_RanaWaleed) June 10, 2016
Sirmed has been on several shows with Hamdullah before, and she's never concealed her many disagreements with his politics. This time, however, he refused outright to let her speak, resorting even to violent threats. Despite the footage from the TV studio, many people online claim that Sirmed provoked the fight. Her supporters, meanwhile, are pushing back:
Can't believe ppl blaming victim in the Marvi Sirmed vs Hafiz Hamdullah showdown when footage shows clearly she didn't provoke it. Sick!
— Talat Aslam (@titojourno) June 10, 2016
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) June 10, 2016
@marvisirmed اپ نے جواب بھی دے دیا اب معصوم بنے کی کوشش کیو کر رہی ھو مرد عورت برابر
— haroonrashid abbasi (@haroonrashidabb) June 10, 2016
You responded to him so now why are you pretending to be innocent? aren't men and women equal?
He was aggressor not me. It was he who hurled rape & death threats not me. It was he who pounced to punch, not me https://t.co/rQJeWB4OVc
— Marvi Sirmed (@marvisirmed) June 10, 2016
Senator Sherry Rehman condemned the incident and echoed the public's demands for action against Senator Hamdullah:
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) June 10, 2016
The renowned women's rights activist Gulalai Ismail has demanded that Senator Hamdullah face legal penalties for threatening Sirmed. In a Facebook post, Ismail shared her anger and frustration about the senator's behavior:
Mullah Hafiz Hamdullah has not just used “derogatory sexist language”, through his statement he has given rape threat to Marvi Sirmed and to her mother. Through is statement, he is reinforcing that being a man having the power of a religious political party at his back, he can rape women and beat women at his disposal. He should not just be banned from media, he should be put in jail for life time because he is a threat to all women.