Karachi, January 19 (Express Tribune): Atif Aslam, Abida Parveen and Asim Azhar performed here last weekend. But what was meant to be an enjoyable night turned out to be a horrifying experience for many.
Things took a wrong turn due to mismanagement as many gate crashed the concert. The crowd was out of control and many women were harassed and molested, forcing Atif to stop the concert. At the end of it all there was a clamor for “Families Only” or “All Women” concerts, a sad day for Pakistan.
“The concert was supposed to start at 7.30/8pm, but nobody was allowed to enter the premises till 9pm. They had the gates shut and it was highly disturbing because they were expecting a huge crowd but there was only one small gate to pass through. Families, VIPs, security, everyone was passing through that gate; automatically people were getting harassed and pushed on their way in, and women were getting squished in the middle,” Osama told Express Tribune.
“It took us 45 minutes to enter, and we were one of the lucky ones to make it in first, others had to wait outside for longer.”
He continued, “They were short staffed, it was evident they had no arrangement for the crowd, there were no bouncers, very less security. There was a VIP enclosure with short barriers where we were sitting, but 10-15 minutes into Asim Azhar’s performance — the first performance of the night — we saw that people from the general entry had pushed away the barriers and were making their way into the VIP lounge.”
Osama added that they were all seated on couches when a huge rush of people crashed into the VIP area; they ran and made their way straight to the front, closest to the stage. “The VIPs couldn’t see anything as they were sitting and all these people were standing. There was total chaos. VJ Ahmed Godil was the host and he continually begged the crowd to back away from the stage as it was messing with the sound system, but nobody listened.”
“The concert was supposed to end at 2am, but due to the delay and disorganization it ended at 2.45am. Many women and families had left by then. Atif’s performance started at 1.17am and it was during his show that he stopped and called out one harasser. I personally didn’t seen any harassment, I just saw people being pushed. My friends who were outside told me that they saw women being harassed.”
“I don’t know if the harassment stopped after Atif pointed it out, maybe it did in the front row did but there was a massive crowd and we don’t know what was happening back there.”
Said Dua Rashid: “Atif was performing after Abida left — this was around 1.15 am — he was in the middle of a song when he suddenly stopped and so did the music; he bent down to talk to one of the boys in the front row, he still had the mic in his hand and we could all hear him.
He asked the boy something along the lines of, ‘Have you never seen a girl before?’ or ‘Do you have women at home?’ and then ordered security to come on stage. On his orders, two security guards immediately came on stage and were ordered by Atif to ‘rescue her [the girl],’ they pulled the girl up on stage and escorted her down the stairs.
“Atif then addressed the boy again warning him not to engage in such mannerism. He then turned to the crowd and spoke about respecting girls and added that he’d end the concert if we didn’t comply to his instructions on respecting women.”
Faisal Kapadia said: “In the middle of his concert, somebody was pushing some girls in the front row, He stopped the concert and he told his manager Omer, to go rescue the girl and he told the organisers to remove the guys in the front row who were pushing the girls and he told them ‘insaan kay bachay bano‘, and he even asked them ‘tumhari maa behnein nahi hain‘, and if you keep continuing to do this, I’m going to walk off.’ That’s why people are saying they have such respect for him.”
Many people are of the opinion that the harassment at the concert drives home the need for public events like the upcoming Karachi Eat to implement family- or women-only policies of admission. Organizers of the food festival were widely criticized for not permitting single men or groups of only men from entering its premises. It can be said that organizers’ policies appear to have found more justification after the events of Saturday night.
Here is Atif Aslam singing Pehli Dafa in the video with Indian actress Ileana D’Cruz