Uzma Khan’s Stand Against Abuse Of Power May Help Fix Our Justice System
Umer Farooq argues that Uzma Khan’s iron stand can lead to many positive altercations in the Pakistani justice system and that she should not back down.
Hassaan Khan Naizi, the lawyer of actress/model Uzma Khan, told a Facebook Live Talk show that the bruised and beaten ladies — Uzma Khan and Huma Khan — were suicidal when they met him after the incident in which Malik Riaz’s daughters and their armed guards broke into their residence and attacked them.
“They were in pretty bad shape, to the point of being suicidal,” he told the talk show host. This is quite understandable for young ladies, whose parents are not alive to support them. What I have gathered from social media, they come from a very humble background. Confronted with and attacked by the family of the most powerful citizen in Pakistan, Malik Riaz, their nervousness is understandable.
They had nowhere to go — police simply behaved in a way that is their forte. For five days, the police simply refused to acknowledge their existence, and tightly controlled media did nothing. They started to look the other way, describing the incident as a petty family dispute. Everybody knows political parties in Pakistan are good for nothing. And Pakistani society lacks social organizations, which could have come to the rescue of those who undergo some kind of trauma at the hands of the powerful.
In such a situation, with no help or relief from any political, social, or legal quarters the ill-fated two sisters have come under the social media spotlight, where trolls have started maligning them with all sorts of name-calling, character assassination and threats. At least this is what one gathers from Hassaan Khan Naizi’s talk on Facebook Live.
What are the options for the two sisters? I am afraid they are unhinged, traumatised and utterly dislocated and might come under the sway of one of those charlatans who are selling fake religiosity to the traumatised — they have converted many famous showbiz stars to pious life in the past. They might be misguided into behaving more piously in this male-dominated society. One sign of this is visible in all their public appearances since the incident, as they never fail to cover their heads while addressing a press conference or giving an interview.
I want to remind them that whatever they have been doing is just fine — they are actors and models and this is an acceptable profession in our society. The moral values of our generation allow women and young girls to enter the profession of modeling and acting in our society and there is absolutely no shame attached to it. My advice to Uzma Khan is that don’t get distracted by social media mudslinging or by any present-day maulvi who might come to them and ask them to redeem their religiosity by becoming more pious. Always remember what you have been doing is not immoral, is not irreligious, and is not illegal.
On the complaint of Uzma Khan, now the Punjab Police has registered an FIR in a fairly diluted form. But reports say before the police can conduct any raid for arrest, the daughters of Malik Riaz have escaped from the country. In the words of a famous legal expert, in Pakistan the law is not enforced, but it is negotiated. If Uzma Khan’s house had been attacked by street hooligans, Punjab Police would have taken action without any hesitation. But, in case of Malik Riaz they thought it better to negotiate the law rather than implement it. Uzma Khan is not the first Pakistani citizen to have been failed by the criminal justice system of this country and she is certainly not the last one. Every day, hundreds of countless victims of power find the doors of the criminal justice system closed for them when they approach it.
Uzma Khan and her sister should not expect anything from this criminal justice system, which is heavily titled towards the powerful and the rich. But this should not mean either, that Uzma Khan should throw in the towel — she should launch an assault on the system, which protects the rich and powerful. She should convert her trauma into social energy. She has already attracted the attention of urban middle classes of Pakistan. Uzma must not back down as this could lead to lots and lots of anti-system energy.
I have never believed in the Marxist axiom that the institution of the state always guards and protects the interests of dominant social and economic classes of the society. But after this incident, I believe the naked protection extended to Malik Riaz’s family by the state machinery completely confirms this Marxist theory that they are simply the stooges of powerful, rich, and dominant classes of the society.
Lastly, advice for Uzma Khan: don’t get distracted by the mudslinging on social media, it doesn’t reflect on your character, it reflects on the mindset of patriarchy, whose children these social media trolls are. Secondly, don’t change course, don’t pose as more pious — as this will only provide justification to the violence that was perpetuated against you.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.