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Wednesday Aug 09 2017

The legal routes Ayesha Gulalai could have chosen...

On July 28, five judges reached a unanimous decision to dismiss Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Not only that but the ruling further banned Sharif, a popular leader, and third-time prime minister, from taking part in any political activities for life. The head of the government was sent packing. His cabinet stood dissolved. Yet, barely four days later, Pakistan’s media and commentariat were talking about a scandal, a personal one, between Sharif’s most vehement critic, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, and a female member of his party, Ayesha Gulalai.

Gulalai accused Khan of harassment, by sending her racy text messages. Leaders of the PTI, both male and female, rubbished the accusations and publicly slandered her character. Khan remained quiet and then finally spoke up. But, strangely, he didn’t have much to say. Gulalai’s story is also falling apart. Several TV anchors have already poked holes in it. So who is telling the truth and who isn’t?

This is the scandal. One that, in my opinion, is reminiscent of the infamous Monica Lewinsky episode that scarred US President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Lewinsky, a White House intern, kept a stained blue dress in her closet for over a year. The dress eventually brought down Clinton, and proved to the investigators and the American public that their president had lied under oath.

Now, Gulalai alleges that Khan first began sending her explicit text messages in 2013, which she has still kept as evidence. Why, one wonders, would someone save four-year-old messages if they do not plan to use them? Why not expose Khan in 2013? Why work with him and defend him and his policies for four years? Why meet him 24 hours before publicly accusing him of misconduct? And lastly, why not file a legal complaint of harassment rather than taking it to the media?

We, in Pakistan, have come a long way in dealing with and taking about sexual harassment. Granted, we still have a longer way to go. But laws do exist. If one receives an unacceptable and unsolicited message on his/her phone, that person can lodge a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency under the newly passed Cyber Crime Law. Then, a woman can also approach the federal and provincial ombudsman for the matter to be investigated. Gulalai chose none of these legal routes. She could have taken Khan to court, but instead, the PTI has served her with a legal notice.

Some of those I spoke to, who asked not to be named, claim there is more to the story than what either of the two are revealing. They say the conversation was an exchange and not a one-sided monologue.

Regardless, the truth will only be known once a thorough and fair investigation is conducted. The messages seen by Capital Talk’s Hamid Mir do give some credence to Gulalai’s claims. According to my information, Khan also at one point proposed to Gulalai, and then later rescinded his offer, which upset her.

Clinton survived impeachment by a whisker. He then withdrew from public life after apologizing to the American people. In Pakistan, apologies are rarely accepted. If Gulalai’s accusations are proven to be true, Khan political career could be in jeopardy as his playboy reputation still haunts him. But here, Ayesha Gulalai must also remember that a fair investigation will not be one-sided. Her responses to Khan will also be made public.

- Ansari is the Lahore Bureau Chief for Geo News.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group.

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