Nauman Ijaz: Foot in mouth

April 24, 2022

Industry stalwart Nauman Ijaz became pejorative when Ayesha Omar, whom he hosted on his show spoke about being sexually assaulted.

Nauman Ijaz: Foot in mouth


yesha Omar, actor, host, and occasional singer has worked hard to be in the position she currently enjoys in the entertainment industry. In 2020, Ayesha Omar went public with her own story of being sexually abused “for years”. Prior to going public, on a breezy, sunny afternoon, Ayesha had told me - off record - that she, too, had gone through a #MeToo experience.

It was a truth that took off in the United States as #MeToo (meaning you had gone through a sexual assault, misconduct, abuse and harassment). Harvey Weinstein, an iconic producer, fell from grace with multiple cases against him eventually landing in jail. It was followed by another major case against American financier Jeffrey Edward Epstein. But other stories on a second rung began trickling through. It led to the creation of #TimesUp – claiming sexual misconduct against vulnerable people will no longer be tolerated.

The goal of #MeToo at its heart was about showing just how high the number of this trauma was in various societies, countries, and the lives of others and how often they occurred. But look up the issue and you realize not everyone went to court. Because it wasn’t about defamation lawsuits and prosecution so much as it was about – first and foremost – creating awareness and a community that could heal by going public, lifting an inner, hurting weight by sharing it with others. While #MeToo spread like wildfire, it moved from celebrities to ordinary individuals who had gone through such an ordeal around the world.

In Pakistan, it did lead to people sharing their stories on social media. But when it came to public figures like Meesha Shafi, naming the accuser didn’t mean justice in entirety but defamation suits. In fact, those who threw their weight and stories behind her also landed in legal waters.

In such a situation, Ayesha Omar not naming the person who abused her makes sense. However, what didn’t make sense at all was when Omar went on Nauman Ijaz’s talk show (G Sarkar with Nauman Ijaz) where she spoke about the abuse and received insensitive criticism from one of the industry’s biggest names in acting.

During the interview, Nauman Ijaz told her how things in the past should not be revealed just because someone else has done so before and it can damage image. Ayesha partially agreed with what Ijaz said about damaging image. However, she went on to explain what she felt was right and how some truths must be brought to light. In a country like Pakistan, these taboo topics need to be discussed openly and when public figures speak, more people pay attention. Of course, this was lost on Nauman Ijaz who stated during one point in the show: “Kabhi apki bold shoots aa jati hain, kuch aap statements aise de deti hain”, essentially shaming Omar for her choices.

At another point, he said, she was doing it because someone else did it and she clarified she did it for herself, first and foremost, and those who follow her as an influential person.

A composed Ayesha took his words in stride before stating, “But I need to follow my truth.”

What followed was a preaching of a strange sort and an attack on Ayesha Omar about how making such statements was about publicity perhaps and why did she choose to speak now, several years after the fact. Ayesha is popular enough and when people choose to speak is ultimately about when they’re ready. It’s not as binary as Nauman Ijaz thinks.

A restrained Ayesha explained how she didn’t speak for 15 years but when influential figures speak about their ordeals, fans/followers don’t feel alone. While Ayesha eloquently explained her reasons for admitting that she, too, had been abused within the industry, Nauman Ijaz spent quite a bit of time as a non-neutral host who kept pushing all the wrong buttons.

The clincher: He is
featuring in a non-cliched ZEE5 series, Mrs. & Mr. Shameem going for what is the most unconventional role for him, aka non-alpha male.

The need to keep pushing Ayesha about how there was no need for her to speak on the matter a decade later was fairly despicable as it went on for quite a few minutes. And coming from an industry giant makes the argument inexplicable and and naive. The world we lived in two decades ago has changed and speaking on such traumatic matters is never easy but it is opening up. Kudos to Ayesha Omar for eloquently standing up to a judgmental interview, and sticking to her truth. Meesha Shafi opened the Pandora’s box and others followed suit but this attitude of finding dignity in hushing up such ordeals is why society has become much more myopic and divisive.

Perhaps the one small silver lining is how netizens have reacted to this interview and for once, they’re on Ayesha Omar’s side and calling out Nauman Ijaz for his offensive, insensitive, impolite exchange of words. At this rate, even those within the industry will think three times before using their influence to tell their personal stories that can help fans in finding their truths and strength. 

Nauman Ijaz: Foot in mouth