Mahira Khan needs to have complete control over her body, life and behaviour. This is her right. It should not be defended, explained or justified. It should only be respected. Period! The controversy surrounding the smoke-break photographs of Mahira Khan and Ranbir Kapoor has made me very upset. I am angry with the people who have been outraged by the photographs. I am also angry with the people who have jumped in to defend acts – smoking, fraternising with an actor from India, and wearing clothes of her choice – that did not need to be defended. And I am very angry with people who invaded the privacy of two adults having a good time in New York by taking photographs without their knowledge and permission. I have been thinking about the three things that have gotten me angry. The examination has revealed some very disturbing things about Pakistani people, for whom I have boundless love, affection and fondness. Over the years, moral outrage has become a national habit and pastime of the Pakistani populace. We are outraged every time someone acts in a manner that is at odds with our own values. We get angry when anyone we like, dislike, envy, or revere, asserts his rights and acts in a manner that we can find fault with. We seem to have a pathological need to enforce behavioural, communal, cultural, ethical, moral, religious, social and societal norms that we believe in and, in some cases, those that we don’t even believe in ourselves. Over the years, moral outrage has become a national habit and pastime of the Pakistani populace. We are outraged every time someone acts in a manner that is at odds with our own values. We get angry when anyone we like, dislike, envy, or revere, asserts his rights and acts in a manner that we can find fault with. We seem to have a pathological need to enforce behavioural, communal, cultural, ethical, moral, religious, social and societal norms that we believe in and, in some cases, those that we don’t even believe in ourselves There is nothing noble, altruistic or honourable about the afore-mentioned moral outrage. It is wielded by people who have need to enforce their status as good people; who need to validate their own lives by criticising those led by others; who are insecure, envious, jealous, or spiteful, and, in some cases, all four; who are uneducated; who covet attention; and who, almost always, have a great deal of free time at their hands. I think that the many people, including my brethren from the actor community, who have jumped to Mahira’s defence, are fundamentally wrong, their good intentions notwithstanding. When we defend something that does not need to be defended, when we justify what does not need to be justified, and when we explain that does not need to be explained, we are wasting our time, and that of others, and adding fuel to a fire that needs to be extinguished immediately. It does not matter if the mark on Mahira’s back is a hicky or a scar from a cyst removal procedure. It is her back, not anyone else’s. It does not matter that smoking hurts health. It is her health and, since she is smoking outdoors away from other people, no one else’s. It does not matter that she is fraternising with an actor from India. It is her choice to decide whom she fraternises with. And it does not matter if her dress is too revealing, or not. It is her body and she can choose to reveal it or hide it. I have found the controversy to be truly and utterly revolting. I have shared my disgust with a few friends who have asked me a few questions. Am I upset because Mahira Khan is a dear friend? Mahira is a dear friend and I care for her deeply. That being said, my being upset has nothing to do with my relationship with Mahira. I would be equally upset if someone – even someone I disliked – would be dragged into such a controversy. Am I angry because I don’t smoke and Mahira Khan is smoking? Yes, I do not smoke and, yes, I wish others would not but I live where more than 36 percent of males and 9 percent of females smoke on a regular basis. I do not see any hysteria caused by their smoking and, therefore, get angry when an actor is targeted for an act that our nation tolerates all the time. Persecution because of celebrity is despicable. Would I allow my wife to wear similarly revealing clothes? I do not allow, or disallow, my wife to wear anything. She decides what to wear on her own and she makes good choices based on occasion, weather, fashion, style, comfort, personal values, and a lot of other factors. That is how I believe Mahira made her choice of dress as well. She needs no one to allow her to dress up the way she wants to. Is it not wrong to associate with people from India? Hell, no! The question should not even be asked in a country where Bollywood films are more popular than any other form of entertainment. No one can say that he does not owe anyone, anything. Least of all celebrities who are almost always admired and loved. People are influenced by their behaviour, people try to emulate their style and people follow their choices. Celebrities, therefore, have a greater degree of responsibility towards society than most citizens. This comes with the territory but there are limits that must be observed. Mahira needs to act well. Her histrionic ability can always be discussed, examined and criticised. Mahira needs to model well. When she does not, her modelling can be critiqued. And, Mahira needs to conduct herself with dignity, honour and class in public. She can be censured when she does not. What she does in private is her own business and no one else’s. I have known Mahira for about 10 years. I have always found her to be a resourceful, competent and responsible actor. I feel that she is a remarkably capable model. And I have always seen her conduct herself with dignity, honour and class in public. Therefore, she has, in my opinion, fulfilled her responsibilities as a celebrity for more than 10 years and never once failed her fans, friends, family members and countrymen. Let us respect her for having done so! The writer is an award-winning actor, and host, who takes great interest in social, moral and political matters. He Tweets at @Ahsankhanuk can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 27th 2017.