Barrister Hassan Khan Niazi - "There are zero boundaries in #pakistan! Last night my sister went to AKU emergency & the doctor who tended to her tried 2 add her on FB. I don't quite understand how doctor tending 2 emergency patients thinks it's ok to take a female patient info & add her on FB!" unethical."

A few days ago Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid tweeted the above mentioned tweet, and as a consequence, caused the dismissal of the doctor from Agha Khan Hospital in Karachi, and also a huge outcry/debate on social media. But in addition to this tweet, Sharmeen Obaid also saw fit to threaten:

"Unfortunately the doctor messed with the wrong women in the wrong family and I will definitely report him! Harassment has 2 stop!"

As a lawyer, I feel it would be best if the reigns of this debate were given in the hands of the law, and allow it to steer us to the correct conclusion, rather than allow our emotions and sentiments, which have so often misguided us, take control.

Even though I have multiple reservations on what Waqar Zaka does on social media to get attention (in fact it to be a waste of time to follow him on social media), however, I must appreciate the fact that he raised a voice for the doctor who got fired after Sharmeen Obaid’s tweets.

Sharmeen is an icon for the people in filming industry, you are a hero for the people who are victims of injustice, and as a human rights lawyer I appreciate what you have done for the country. However, the tweets have changed everything for all the secret, as well as open, admirers you had across Pakistan.

I feel it to be hypocritical that Sharmeen saw fit to make films on Pakistan and yet blamed our mother land for a friend request sent to her sister by her doctor in Agha Khan Hospital emergency. The doctor does not represent me, or any individual who is offended by your statement. Your social media accounts are followed by people from across the world and you told the world that "there are no boundaries in Pakistan." Seems that rather than portraying Pakistan as a country that is slowly and gradually improving its socio-economic structure, you prefer to portray it as a cesspool of all that is bad and immoral.

It is imperative to remind you, Sharmeen, that Pakistan honored you with the highest civilian award for the work you have doing (and you were very happy to accept it). However, in light of your highly condemnable stance towards Pakistan, I feel it was unjust to reward you, considering you blamed an entire country for a single 'friend request,' while telling the world that it is a country where men harassing women, is a common practice. Your tweet clearly generalised the entire society of Pakistan, and such sweeping statements from people like yourself are an embarrassment.

I am currently dealing with cases regarding women rights in three different cities. I have also sent many random friend requests, even received many but never anyone has accused me of harassment. Your tweet would've been even harsh if you had blamed just the doctor. But no, you chose to belittle an entire country.

Further in your tweet you blamed the doctor for harassment, by sending a friend request on social media. Sharmeen, one would think that after gaining the amount of exposure you have, by traveling the world and living in multiple places in the west, you would know that when you accuse someone of a criminal offence, the burden of proof is on you. Allow me to help you. The law of land is as follows, and you can use it to prove all your critics wrong.

Under Section 24(a) of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, reads as follows:

“Cyber stalking: a person commits an offence of cyber stalking who with intent to coerce or intimidate or harass Any person, uses information system, information system network, the internet, website or any other similar means of communication to: follow a person or contacts, or attempts to contact such person to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such people.”

Moreover, Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, also gives our female protection and has zero tolerance for insulting the modesty of any female. While Section 503 of PPC is what regarding the threat, and I will advise the doctor to have a look, and the threat by Sharmeen could amount to Criminal Intimidation.

Under law of England, for harassment to occur on social media, in regards to attempts to contact someone, an action must be done repeatedly, not just once, and the ‘victim’ must clearly express their lack of consent.

The law clearly says that the act has to be repeated. In this case it was just one mere friend request. The next question that arises was whether sister of Sharmeen’s modesty was insulted. Clearly not; as a friend request, or even a message stating "Hi I want to be your friend" cannot insult anyone's modesty.

Furthermore, even if the rules of Facebook (the social media website where this ‘harassment’ took place), are perused in this matter, it is clear that what Sharmeen is claiming to be harassment, isn’t. For those who are unfamiliar with the rules of Facebook, the relevant rule states that one can commit harassment by “repeatedly targeting other people with unwanted friend requests or messages.” Note that it says repeated acts, not one.

However, there was twist in whole of this episode when finally Sharmeen tweeted a response, showing that she had no remorse on accusing Pakistan for being land of harassers. Sharmeen did not apologise for accusing the doctor for harassment and blaming Pakistan for the unethical (maybe) act of one single person. The icon for many seems to still be standing by her stance of accusing the man for harassing the sister for the friend request.

I feel that she has been cornered by her own words. A friend request can easily be declined, it can be ignored, or you can even block the person who sent you the request. Even you can even change your settings on social media so no one can send you random requests. Sharmeen’s latest response even mentions the fact that the Doctor had even commented on some of the posts of Sharmeen’s sister. Without giving proof and alleging someone of harassment was never a good idea. How did the doctor comment if the profile was not accessible to the public. If it was accessible to the public then what caused the ‘harassment’?

Miss Sharmeen Obaid, some people learn it the hard way. I was one of them, I once tweeted and used an inappropriate word for homosexuals. I had to take my word back and apologize. It was indeed a good learning for me. I think it is high time you take your words back. People look up to you. After the tweet people are raising fingers on your award winning documentaries. Even today when I replayed your documentary on "Pakistan: children of Taliban", your tweet did make sense. People are playing the video interview of the acid victim, Rukhsana, blaming you for some sort of misunderstanding. It is sad to see what one tweet has done to the star of Pakistan.

However, I do believe it is unfair to take the credit for your efforts for Pakistan, but when one is at such a stature as you are, even small mistake can cause big damage. As a proud Pakistani, I request this: Sharmeen take your words back.

The author is a human right lawyer and Director Blackstone Law College. He can be reached through email: hkniazi@hotmail.com