The ex-prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has come under new controversy over his sexist remarks regarding the current vice president of the Pakistan Muslim League- N, Maryam Nawaz. In a rally attended by thousands of supporters, Imran Khan shared his thoughts on a recent speech by Maryam Nawaz. He said, “I was sent the video of Maryam’s speech on social media yesterday; in that speech, she took my name so many times with such jazba and junoon that I want to tell her to be careful. Your husband might get upset at you taking my name so often”. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the statement, saying the former prime minister owes an apology to all women. We understand that such personal attacks and sexist comments have no place in politics. However, the national outcry of having Imran Khan apologies for his comments is a bit hypocritical, to say the least. Suddenly all of the opposition parties are champions of women’s equality.
Let’s recall some examples of Maryam Nawaz’s political party being examples of decency. Back when Benazir Bhutto first became active in the political scene of Pakistan, all of PML-N took to the streets to besmirch her name. After all, it was the first time any woman had stood up to become politically active. From name-calling to accusations of immorality, PML-N did everything to portray Benazir as a western demon sent to Pakistan to lead other women out of the bounds of Islam. There were posters and pamphlets with her pictures and derogatory remarks in their campaigns. These posters were printed and spread across multiple cities in Pakistan.
You would think their misogyny is only limited to the streets, but sadly, there have been numerous occasions where female parliament members have been harassed during official proceedings. Khwaja Asif, the current Defense Minister and a well-known member of PML-N called a fellow parliamentarian Shireen Mazari as “tractor trolley” and “make her voice more feminine” in the NA. When asked to apologize, he refused, “I will not apologize. They can do whatever they want.” Furthermore, Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith was continuously harassed when she was in Pakistan. While pregnant, a fake smuggling case was registered against her, making her life a living hell in Pakistan. She is continuously harassed online and in-person for her once association with Imran Khan.
We do understand that two wrongs do not make a right. The widespread misogyny and sexism in Pakistani politics is a plague that will not happen anytime soon. It is about time that we hold our political leaders accountable for what they say. Their words reflect what the majority of men think about women. Changing their mindset will not be done overnight; however, starting by calling out these monsters who sit in positions of power is a good start. This responsibility also heavily lies on the women who are politically active. They should not sit by and allow men to pass sexist remarks, even if their targets are from other political parties.