Pakistani Pop Star Halts Show To Save Female Fan From Alleged Harassment

Jan 17, 2017

A popular Pakistani musician and actor, Atif Aslam, is being hailed worldwide after he stopped a live performance on Saturday night to rescue a female fan who was allegedly being sexually harassed by a group of men at the concert.

Videos of the incident shot by concertgoers are circulating online. Aslam stops his musicians mid-song, and in a mix of Urdu and English, begins berating the alleged harassers, who seem to be right in front of the stage. "Wait a second," the singer says angrily. "Have you ever seen a girl? Your mother or sister could be here, too, huh?"

He then instructs security to pull the young woman up onto the stage with him, saying: "I'm going to rescue her."

Many fans are heard cheering the singer's actions, chanting: "Atif! Atif! Atif!" Aslam goes on to address the attackers directly again, saying: "Act like a human being."

The show, in which Aslam was co-billed with Sufi singing legend Abida Parveen, took place at the Institute of Business Administration, a highly ranked university in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. The show was organized by MUNIK, the school's Model United Nations.

Aslam is a household name in Pakistan and is well-known throughout the South Asian subcontinent. His video for the wildly popular Coke Studios Pakistan series, a tribute to the Sufi singers The Sabri Brothers, has been viewed on YouTube more than 56 million times. He made his acting debut in the 2011 film Bol — whose plot involves a family with a transgender daughter and which broke box-office records in Pakistan.

Yesterday, the newspaper The Daily Pakistan reported in the aftermath of Saturday's show that "dozens of girls were molested and sexually harassed at the venue," and citing an anonymous tipster, charged that students at the university who helped organize the show sold thousands of fake tickets to the performance, leading to chaos and lack of security.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn posted a number of social media accounts of what happened. One female concertgoer named Mahnoor Alamgir wrote on Facebook: "Not a single girl escaped harassment unless she was with a male friend or husband...I'm utterly disgusted right now."

Another woman in the audience named Yusra Habib wrote on Facebook: "You know something is terribly problematic when a singer has to stop in between his performance, spot harassment from within a massive crowd and ask his team to 'rescue the girl.' You know its [sic] even more uncomfortable when three more girls have to be lifted on stage and taken away safely. It only goes on to prove that no matter how butt-hurt our awaam [people] gets over this reverse-sexism and so called misogyny at public events, it is what we as a crowd need the most."

In many of the South Asian news accounts of this incident, the harassment and molestation of women is referred to by a common regional euphemism: "eve-teasing."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.