The recent Digital Pakistan event sponsored by the government was an attempt to invite vloggers and bloggers in our country to promote content that will take Pakistan into the new decade – or at least that’s what we think was the purpose.
However, what stood out like an eyesore was a group photograph including infamous Vlogger Ukhano with our Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is perhaps legit to say that the PM might not know who is Ukhano till the day he stood beside him – so, my next question is:
Who were the organizers behind this forum?
They a) did not do their homework or b) DID their homework but didn’t really care!
For those who don’t know, Ukhano had been accused earlier in 2019 of female sexual harrasment. Photographs and tweets had resurfaced. The evidence was visibly damning but Ukhano denied all, and … life continued as usual – as it normally does in Pakistan.
That brings me to my next question, and an even harder one:
If we accept the presence of other alleged harassers at award functions and sing praises of wife abusers on their new album (I hope you know I’m alluding to 2 different people), then you would ask that: should it really matter if Ukhano was invited to the party?
Our selective value system never fails to surprise. But perhaps what should be celebrated was the noted absence of beloved and popular Karachi Vlogger and YouTuber Irfan Junejo.
Irfan tweeted about his absence in a series of successive tweets.
He lauded the government’s initiative but also made it very clear that (though he was invited), he didn’t attend the summit for a number of reasons.
And ONE of his reason should be highlighted, framed on stamp paper, and serve as a reminder to all those who feel that they should ‘mind their own business.’
Here it is:
“I, unfortunately, have said no to many paid opportunities in my career where I was being asked to share the platform with problematic people to say the least. This was not a paid opportunity but I said no for the same reason.” – Irfan Junejo
“Any gathering that glorifies people that harassed people that I personally know, I am out.”
His followers responded with supportive tweets:
“Ifran bhai I’m with you”
But one follower pointed out:
“Don’t you think you can contribute more by attending the events rather than sitting out as u think an alleged harrasser is present! That event doesn’t glorify ppl like ukhano. He is one of the 30ppl there … Leaving a platform isn’t a solution.”
To which Irfan responded:
“I PERSONALLY KNOW PEOPLE who were harassed by PEOPLE present there. Please include this in your clarification.”
In the light of the above exchange, it is heartening that someone spoke his mind. Someone who is a well-known YouTuber and has thousands of followers who listen in when he speaks. Someone who used his influencer status to say what is ethically right. Someone who didn’t ‘mind his own business’ and say: arey yeh tau hota hai. Court mein ja kay prove karen. What can I do? I have nothing to do with this business, and I will not interfere.
We have become too used to watching the drama from the sidelines and ‘minding our own business.’
The rising cases of sexual harassment is growing. A victim should be able to register a formal complaint and fight his/her case according to legal procedures. Also, unfortunately, the very nature of sexual harassment is such, that it cannot be proven easily. The victim relies on witnesses, and our society is still too orthodox for women to appear freely in court on sexual harassment battles. Hence the case fizzles out, and the ‘alleged harasser’ is free to roam the streets in broad daylight!
Lastly, we find it very hard to digest that our beloved celebrities are capable of such depraved acts as sexual harassment. They hold a larger than life place in our hearts, and so much goodwill (and funds for powerful lawyers at their disposals), attached to their public image, that any slur, or finger pointed towards them will be counteracted by a thousand supporters.
And that brings me to my initial point. Why Irfan Junejo makes us remember what we are forgetting?
We are forgetting that it’s important to speak up for those who are wronged. We are forgetting that it’s not always right to mind our own business! Even if yours is a lonely voice that echoes back to you. Irfan’s 57.9K Twitter followers heard him – and that’s important – Baby steps forward.
Irfan Junejo did the right thing. He stayed back. He did not mind his own business. He tweeted his reason to not join the summit, and that voice was heard.
“It was never about who’s winning. It’s about my conscience. This isn’t a race.” – Irfan Junejo
At least, he has a conscience, if not a group photo with the prime minister. The question to ask ourselves? Which has more value, the photo or the conscience? That’s what we are forgetting – our conscience! And do we even have one left now?