Will both Ayeshas be treated equally?

Will both Ayeshas be treated equally?


When Ayesha Gulalai dished harassment allegations at Imran Khan, little did she know the can of worms she was about to open. She did not know where she will wind up but was enthralled enough to go down the path anyway. Her expedition into whimsical absurdity began the moment she claimed she had been receiving lewd messages since 2013 but chose to stay silent until elections.The deluge of media questions that followed is history. Even though Gulalai kept her calm and stuck to her guns, the alarming number of questions from media clearly overwhelmed her.

The deluge of media questions that followed is history. Even though Gulalai kept her calm and stuck to her guns, the alarming number of questions from media clearly overwhelmed her.Enter Ayesha Ahad – the woman who claims to be the former spouse of Hamza Shahbaz. In a rather predictable turn of events, only a few days after Gulalai made headlines, Ayesha Ahad jumps the bandwagon. She enters the picture with grudges not so similar and yet quite similar to Gulalai.

Enter Ayesha Ahad – the woman who claims to be the former spouse of Hamza Shahbaz. In a rather predictable turn of events, only a few days after Gulalai made headlines, Ayesha Ahad jumps the bandwagon. She enters the picture with grudges not so similar and yet quite similar to Gulalai.

The bone of contention between Ayesha Ahad and Hamza Shahbaz is Hamza’s previous wife Mehrunnisa. According to Ayesha, Hamza lied when he said he had divorced Mehrunnisa. Ayesha also demanded that her secret marriage with Hamza be legitimized.

But Ahad’s story is more than just that. Dating back to around 2011, it’s a story of how she lodged a case against Hamza which was soon followed by a case registered against her by her maid for kidnapping. If you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, an internet search will reveal how Ahad claimed in 2011 that she was deliberately implicated in a fake abduction case and arrested after she claimed she is Hamza’s wife. She also claims she was meted out with torture from police. She calls the chain of events an obvious result of political overreach.

Ayesha Ahad said she ran from pillar to post to have her grievances heard but to no avail. She believes she was at a disadvantage earlier because of PML-N’s powerful position, but now that she sees the court handing out landmark verdicts, she sees a ray of hope. She announced that she will move election commission against Hamza Shahbaz for not being Sadiq and Ameen on grounds of deception.

But will an in-house parliament investigation be commissioned for Hamza Shahbaz? If yes, will it be on the same footings as the investigation against Imran Khan, the opposition leader?

 We are yet to see if the new prime minister launches a probe into allegations leveled against the MNA of his own party. We are yet to see if the former daughter-in-law of the house will be given the same chance to have her grievances heard as Gulalai.

 With PML-N dominating the house, there is a definite upside to ignoring Ahad’s case or not taking it as seriously as Gualai. There is a definite incentive for dismissing Ahad’s claims as absurd and politically motivated. But a sense of equity and fair play will only prevail when the tall claims by both women are not only given due consideration but thoroughly looked into.

Like Gulalai, Ayesha Ahad claims she has text messages to support allegations. An analysis of the text messages should, therefore, be key to the investigation. The case is not as open-and-shut as it first looks so the analysis should go beyond just checking cell phones. The case should be solved using a breadth of techniques. Verifying message authenticity should be high on the list.

When talking about authenticity, different people will come at it from different directions. For example, a networking expert may want to make sure the messages are not spoofed. The trained eye of a crime scene investigator my want to chase down the suspect who used Imran's phone to send messages. For all we know, the phone may have been illicitly used while Imran was busy elsewhere. An IT expert, on the other hand, will want to rule out any intrusion that may have allowed a hacker to gain access to his phone.

All approaches have their merits. The importance of any of these approaches cannot be played down. The committee formed should therefore strike the right balance of technical expertise. All the technical expertise, however, is of little use until steps are also taken to achieve gender balance. An all-male committee can inadvertently perpetuate patriarchal notions of equity. Female representation is therefore central to the investigation. The committee should also ideally have proportionate political representation. This will ensure a balancing influence. It will dial down personal biases and curb political agendas.

Ahad’s grievances are equally as legitimate as Gulalai, if not more, but her plight pales in comparison to the furore caused by Gulalai’s press conference. The public uproar and backlash from activists following Gualai’s conference has dwarfed some very noteworthy concerns about Ahad’s case. And the fact that Ahad’s case goes a long way could mean it is not as politically motivated as we make it out to be.

 Those who are questioning these women's motives for not speaking up earlier and bringing it up around elections have valid concerns. But it is also worth reiterating that when it comes to harassment, women in our country are often encouraged to stay silent. They are often told to bite the bullet and mosey on.