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Friday, May 17, 2024

Ali Rehman’s social experiment against Pakistan’s VIP culture

On Sunday 24thNovember Ali Rehman revealed the real reason behind the controversial video of him abusing a Mcdonald’s employee which made rounds on social media the previous day: a social experiment to combat Pakistan's VIP culture

On Sunday 24th November Ali Rehman, a Pakistan film and theatre actor known for his performances in Rishtay Kuch Adhooray Se and Jaanan, revealed the real reason behind the controversial video of him abusing a Mcdonald’s employee which made rounds on social media the previous day.

Rehman claims it was a social experiment, now termed #TumJaantayHoMeinKonHuun, to raise awareness regarding the VIP culture in Pakistan which allows people with influence to exploit our society’s power imbalance and mistreat employees from lower socio-economic classes.

The initial video released of Rehman shows him yelling at a cashier at Mcdonald’s Islamabad. When asked by the cashier not to be upset, Rehman erupts in anger and asks “do you know who I am?”, a phrase commonly heard in Pakistan. Rehman reiterates his standing as a public figure and continues schooling the cashier.

The video received a monumental backlash online as people deemed the behavior highly inappropriate. According to Rehman in the explanatory video, this was exactly the reaction he was hoping for as it would gather public attention and help the cause.

Political commentator Mooed Pirzada took to twitter asking for the full video of the incident as scenes before and after the altercation would validate Rehman’s explanation.

Despite the proof provided, some people remained skeptical of Rehman’s ‘social experiment’ and thought the explanation provided was damage control after having to paying the cost for his behaviour in terms of public outlash.

Maleeha Hashmey expressed her concerns at Mcdonald’s Islamabad regarding the ‘protocol driven culture’ and asked some employees whether they were aware of such a social experiment, who reaffirmed her position by saying they were not.

However, on Sunday 24thNovember, Mcdonald’s made a public announcement about their partnership with Ali Rehman to execute the social experiment claimed by the actor. This experiment is part of a bigger campaign that aims to target the issue of ‘VIP culture’, according to Mcdonald’s.

Furthermore, the full video of the incident, as requested by people such as Moeed Pirzada, was later released which shows Rehman’s sharing a laugh with the cashier after losing character.

The full video also shows a man in a blue and white shirt who can be spotted in the same position in the initial controversial release. This debunks the argument that Rehman may have gone back to shoot this video to save face after public humiliation.

Unless we assume Ali Rehman immediately realized his behavior would warrant unwanted consequences and turned the situation around to make it appear like a social experiment, we are left to believe his version of the story according to sufficient proof.

This incident, whether a real condemnable offense or just a social campaign, begs us to ask a bigger question: does a VIP culture that chokes those less powerful exist? Pakistan has a history of authority manifesting in toxic ways. On 7th October 2012 Rabia Shahbaz, daughter of current President PML-N Shahbaz Sharif, had a bakery worker beaten up by personal guards and Elite Force personnel.

Read more: Do You Know Who I am? Furious Ali Rehman lashed out at restaurant employee

According to a leaked CCTV footage of the incident, Rabia forcibly entered Sweet Tooth, a bakery in Defense Phase II Lahore, insisting to make a purchase. When Irfan, a cleaner at the bakery, informed her that she cannot make any purchases as the store opens at 3 pm and the staff is not present, she stormed out after a heated argument.


Later that evening, personnel from Elite Force along with a few plain-clothed guards made an appearance at the bakery. They beat up the worker Irfan and took him to an unknown location where he was further assaulted. “They took me to an unknown location where I was severely beaten. It was dark and I couldn’t figure out what place it was,” said Irfan who was in terrible shape following the assault.

Though such acts are irrefutably condemnable and elicit a necessary eradication of such evils, to what extent is it permissible for private interactions to be recorded without consent? Such sensational videos lack context and force the wider public to take an uninformed position on a matter.

If every private conversation, or even altercation, becomes public, will society improve by holding people accountable or can it reap negative effects as well such as making uninformed judgments and making public spaces an insecure place?