Khalil ur Rehman Qamar is notorious for some of his “problematic” statements and his falling out with Pakistani feminists, be it about women’s rights or the dialogues he writes for his dramas. Just a few days ago, the playwright was invited to a panel discussion with the topic focusing on underage marriages and the idea of four marriages. Midway through the discussion, Khalil sahib lost his temper at a fellow female panelist and the host, took his microphone off, and stormed out.
The female fellow panelist, a journalist, Ailia Zehra, took her official Twitter account and shared a clip of the show “Bolta Lahore” on the channel “Lahore Rung” and described the incident and experience as “horrible”.
She tweeted, “Just had a horrible encounter with toxic masculinity. Khalilur Rehman Qamar lost his marbles during a talk show when I called him out over his hateful rhetoric. He left the show while yelling at the top of his lungs. Called me a RAW agent and spewed sexist slurs.”
Here’s what happened
The show started with the host Awais Iqbal describing an incident from when he was on a flight to Florida where he met an 80-year-old woman who was married four times. Once the introduction to all panelists was done, Awais began the discussion addressing Khalil sahib, asking him what the reasons are behind a high divorce rate in the “mashriki” world despite having such strong “morals” and “values”, to which Khalil sahib replied, “jo khatoon aapko mili thi unto koi sharmindagi nahi thi, unko meri taraf se our Pakistan ki taraf se aik laanat bhejiye.” He continued with an assumption, claiming that the fact that she was married four times means that she was wrong and cheated on her husband. So basically, according to him, a woman cannot be married more than once because that apparently reflects badly on the woman.
He added that the main reason behind the rise of the divorce rate in Pakistan is how poorly fathers play their role, who don’t ask their daughters if they like who they are getting married to. Khalil Ur Rehman also kept referring to Pakistani women as “my women”.
Awais then addressed Ailia and asked her about her views on what Khalil had to say and if it’s okay for a woman to seek a divorce from an abusive husband. Ailia says it’s unfortunate how women are demonised if they use their right to divorce even if the husband is abusive, assumptions are made on the woman’s character rather than understanding the situation. She also talks about the social stigma attached to divorce. She adds that literate women are more aware of their rights and don’t fall under the pressures of society and refuse to be silenced.
Fifteen minutes into the discussion, they go deeper into Pakistani society’s issues like early marriages. The host/moderator asked Khalil sahib about his views on why early marriages are prevalent in certain areas of our society to which he said it’s not prevalent and also asked Awais how dare he questions the notion of four marriages when the Holy Quran has given men the right to do so? The situation then escalated quite fast with Khalil sahib showing signs of aggression towards the host and then his co-panelist. We do see Ailia defending herself in a sentence while cutting the playwright off which seems to have triggered the situation even more.
Since the dawn of this incident, we’ve heard of various opinions on the matter; some siding with the female journalist and co-panelist on how disrespectful the playwright was for losing his temper in a discussion and raising his voice and badmouthing a woman, some criticising the journalist for cutting Khalil Ur Rehman off mid-conversation which resulted in him losing his temper. However, netizens expressed their opinions loud and clear via tweets and some of these tweets were by renowned people like content creator Mooro, activist and founder of Soul Sisters Pakistan and Conversations with Kanwal, Kanwal Aftab, Activist and TEDx speaker Usama Khilji and various others.
Some sided with the man, saying its disrespectful to cut someone off while they’re talking and one shouldn’t play the “aurat card”
What are your views on the incident? We feel such drama can be ignored by refraining to invite people who do not have the temperament to hold a conversation, be it anyone.