Patari, who only recently created shockwaves in Pakistan earlier this year due to sexual harassment allegations against their former CEO Khalid Bajwa, has made headlines yet again.
After multiple statements from Patari that there is a “no tolerance” policy regarding harassment and of an internal audit – several employees resigned recently due to similar issues. Six employees resigned and released a statement of their resignations several days ago and cited multiple issues related to harassment and company culture as the reason for their departure.
Even more shocking was that after this incident, staff leaked a photo of an internal conversation acquiescing Ali Zafar’s requests to bury Meesha Shafi’s brothers music from the platform due to their ongoing court case of sexual harassment.
In the letter from the six employees, they stated that Bajwa remained active in the company after his resignation and that internal conversations in the company echoed the sentiment that Bajwa was unfairly victimized as well. With this, the statement also believed that women in the company were being unfairly harassed by Bajwa’s supporters online.
The fact that Bajwa never truly left the company and continued to represent it would leave female and other staff alarmed – as it should.
As for the leaked photo, it depicts that Patari’s leadership aligned with Ali Zafar in his pending sexual harassment case which involved Meesha Shafi. In the screenshot that was leaked it’s apparent that leaders at Patari purposely pushed a new single by Shafi’s brother to the back as Ali Zafar contacted them with the complaint that this seemed to be in support of her, instead of him.
In response to this, Ali Zafar’s team had no comment. Ali Sethi and Faris Shafi however, stated in a joint statement that:
Patari’s response in particular was telling of the very culture that employees seemed to be continually warning the public about. Interim CEO, Rabeel Warraich seemed to be more concerned with the alleged ethical issue of the breach instead of the action of allying with Ali Zafar instead.
Warraich shared on the issue of the leak that:
“Certain screenshots from a confidential internal Patari discussion were leaked with an intention to portray Patari as unfairly targeting one artist at the behest of another… the leak was not only unethical but also a serious criminal breach.”
Source at @Patari shared with @dawn_images a screenshot of an internal communication that refers to a request allegedly made by @AliZafarsays to change the placement of a track by @itsmeeshashafi’s brother Faris Shafi. The request was obliged. #Pakistan https://t.co/tJyH3BCEEe pic.twitter.com/MF1AXHOYUZ
— Mehreen Zahra-Malik (@mehreenzahra) July 4, 2018
Warraich seemed unbothered that staff wasn’t able to access upper management about this issue nor that company culture may not allow them to. The only concern in this aspect of his statement was that the intention was not to bring light to an ongoing issue, but to ‘portray’ Patari in a certain light.
On the issue and how these issues are generally dealt with, Warraich shared that:
“Patari employees have always openly debated all sides of an issue, no matter how controversial, and taken a call on what the best approach would be. On occasion, those have been poor calls, but that is something expected of a young company. The fact that a debate happens on controversial matters is a healthy sign,”
It seems that the concept of open debate may be misunderstood at Patari as in the leaked photo there is no evidence of debate- instead there is a command that was acquiesced without question. Furthermore the idea that controversial topics can be discussed is something that Warriach wears as a badge of pride- but discussion of topics around sexual harassment in Pakistan and in the startup sector are often dominated by men, rarely by those affected.
1/2 Contrary to rumors circulating on social media, Khalid Bajwa has not been re-instated as Patari’s CEO.
An independent company wide audit had been initiated, which has now concluded. Recommendations ensuing from that audit will be issued to the company Board to take…
— Patari (@patarimusic) July 1, 2018
Given what the public now knows about Patari, the question remains of whether Patari is capable of creating a safe space for women in its’ company and outside of it.
In this context it seems as if Warriach is referring to sexual harassment and assault as “controversial” topics that are up for debate- which is precisely what they had advocated against in their initial statement when news of Bajwa broke out. In the post from Warriach himself he shares that they will:
“…continue to have a zero tolerance for harassment of any kind. We recognize that there is rampant misogyny in the tech, startup and music cultures and we are committed in ensuring that there is no space in Patari for such behaviour”
It would seem that Patari and Warriach are more fond of making blanket statements that they believe will appease the supporters movement such as #MeToo than they are willing to create genuine change in their company culture. If misogyny, along with other issues, are not tolerated then employees wouldn’t be resign en masse, leaks wouldn’t be happening and CEO’s would not resign only to still represent the company in the shadows.
The employees at Patari deserve better and the people that engage in your platform demand better- if not, they may very well face the same backlash that Ali Zafar’s “Teefa in Trouble” is facing with active boycotting campaigns and more.
Lip service only goes so far and Patari may have very well run out of blanket statements for Pakistan’s music and for its’ women as well.