Pakistan Bar Council condemns online attacks on Shirazi, says govt had legal recourse

Journalist Asma Shirazi is under fire for writing column seemingly alluding to first lady using tropes of sorcery

Picture source - Twitter @asmashirazi

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Saturday condemned the incessant trolling and harassment of journalist Asma Shirazi by government personnel and members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

In a statement shared on social media by a journalist, PBC Vice Chairman Khush Dil Khan said that Shirazi being attacked for writing a column in the BBC was highly regretted. He said that if anyone was aggrieved by any written material, they should take legal recourse instead of resorting to intimidation tactics and ‘personal attacks’.

Like PBC, veteran journalist Mazhar Abbas, who appeared on Meher Bokhari’s show on Thursday, said that the government should have used defamation and libel laws to ask Shirazi to prove her allegations in the column. Abbas added that Shirazi should also use legal routes to counter the government’s claims that she aligned herself with a single political party.

Bokhari’s show also took up the notion of ethical language whether it was used by the trolls or Shirazi herself. The anchor condemned the use of immoral hashtags to harass Shirazi on Twitter.

Another guest on the show, journalist Arif Hameed Bhatti opined that it was wrong for a journalist to take a jab at any woman who was not in politics, all the while maintaining that he condemned the use of degrading language against women in general, be it against Shirazi herself.

Abbas agreed that the language deployed against Shirazi should not be used, while clarifying that condemning attacks against the journalist did not mean endorsing her writing. Bhatti furthered journalists had an ethical duty to use language responsibly, even if it was being used in an opinion column.

Last week, Shirazi came under fire for writing an opinion piece in which she allegedly referenced the first lady. For her writing, Shirazi became the subject of intense trolling and direct jabs by the PTI government itself.

PTI posted a video on Twitter on Thursday that showed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif seemingly talking to Shirazi about an unaired interview. Sharif was heard insisting Shirazi to air an interview, who responded that the channel could be shut down. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stalwart responded that if Shirazi believed in his cause she should insist on airing the interview to which she agreed. Commenting on the video, PTI questioned how Shirazi could pledge allegiance to an ‘absconder’ like Sharif.

Other than attacks from PTI, Shirazi faced scathing language from Twitter users as well, which drew widespread backlash from journalists and opposition politicians alike.