Police in Pakistan are investigating three women over the assault of a well-known actress in her home, after footage posted on social media went viral and the actress lodged a case.
The video shows three women and about a dozen armed guards entering Uzma Khan’s house in Lahore. They smash up property and interrogate and assault the actress and her sister.
Despite her celebrity and such a dramatic sequence of events, the incident has barely made it into the Pakistani media.
This is probably because two of the women alleged to be involved in the attack have been named as the daughters of one of Pakistan’s most powerful property magnates, Malik Riaz – and the media is wary of running stories about his family.
The influential property tycoon has distanced himself from what happened, saying he had no involvement in what he called “disgraceful incidents”.
His daughters have not made any public comment but the other woman who has been named in the police report, Amena Usman Malik, has.
She has defended her actions in another video, and accused the actress Uzma Khan of having an affair with her husband.
Although there is little in the mainstream media, social media has been consumed by the drama, which provides some insight into the personal enmities and politics of the country’s elite – as well as the media’s reluctance to tackle certain issues.
What do the videos show?
The incident happened on Saturday night, just before the Eid festival at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. After a number of videos were shared on social media, police announced they were launching an investigation on Wednesday.
They have registered a formal complaint against the three women and their guards for allegedly breaking and entering the actress’s residence, beating up her and her sister and damaging their property.
In one video a woman can be heard questioning Ms Khan about her relations with the questioner’s husband, Usman Malik. The woman asking the questions is allegedly Amena Usman Malik, said to be a niece of Malik Riaz’s son-in-law.
It is alleged in the police complaint that she was accompanied by two of the tycoon’s daughters, Amber and Pashmina Malik.
Another video shows the women abusing and harassing Ms Khan and her sister Huma. Broken glass and possessions are shown strewn around the property, as well as blood stains on the floor.
One of the woman can be heard threatening Ms Khan and her sister with kidnapping by the military’s feared ISI intelligence service. The ISI is widely accused of illegally disappearing people, a charge the military denies.
In a third video, a visibly distressed Uzma Khan said she and her sister had just ended their aitekaf (a period of 3-10 days of worship in isolation during the last days of Ramadan) on the eve of Eid when Usman Malik, the husband of Amena, called to offer Eid greetings.
Soon afterwards, the women and their guards crashed into the house.
Some on social media questioned why the women had directed their anger at Uzma Khan, and not the man she was accused of having an affair with.
“The most problematic way women deal with their husband’s infidelity is to cast all blame on the other woman while absolving their husband of all moral obligations. This aggression & indignation should have been directed at the woman’s husband!” tweeted one observer.
In a video statement posted after footage of events inside the house went viral, Amena Usman Malik was open about having entered the property. But she did not address the allegations of assault and theft being investigated by police, or confirm the names of others who were with her.
“As far as barging into someone’s home is concerned, this was not their house. This was my husband’s other house which I followed him to – so basically this was my husband’s home and I have every right to be there.
“I repeatedly warned this girl to save my 13-year-long marriage. This was not the first time I approached her.”
She added that “my husband, Usman Malik has nothing to do with Malik Riaz Hussain, he’s not a part of his immediate family. This is being done to malign Malik Riaz.”
She said she had also left her husband.
He has made no public comment, and the BBC has been unable to reach him.
What does the actress say?
Uzma Khan has accused the women and their private guards of trespassing, causing injuries, damaging property and taking away valuables worth five million rupees (about $31,000) from the house.
At a news conference on Thursday at which Ms Khan was present, her lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq said Usman Malik had been friends with Uzma Khan for two years.
But, the lawyer said, Ms Khan ended her relationship with him in December. Nonetheless, he had continued to visit the house off and on, reporters were told.
“Uzma has Usman’s phone calls and messages saved in her phone and we will table them in the court,” Mr Ashfaq said.
He also rejected Amena Malik’s claim in her video that the house she broke into was her husband’s property.
Ms Khan and her sister needed protection, he said, because their lives were at risk, and he called for the immediate arrest of those named in the police complaint.
The two other women named in the complaint have not made any public comment, and neither have any of the guards.
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Why has the media been quiet?
In most countries, this kind of story would be splashed all over the headlines. But not in Pakistan.
The property magnate – and father of two of the women named – Malik Riaz swiftly threatened to file a defamation suit “against anyone who tries to implicate me wrongfully for such disgraceful incidents”.
Barring one or two exceptions, the Pakistani media has remained quiet on the issue.
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