A man watches a television commercial of a detergent in which takes part Pakistan women's cricket team captain Bismah Maroof (C), in Islamabad on Monday. AFP
An international detergent brand has come under fire for an advertisement questioning gender stereotypes in the conservative patriarchal country, with critics accusing the company of blasphemy.
The commercial for Ariel soap, owned by US-based Proctor & Gamble, calls for women to break free of conservatives norms and pursue careers.
In the ad, several women representing different professions − including a journalist and doctor − are seen pushing dirty sheets hanging on a clothesline off the screen.
The sheets are printed with common refrains used to reinforce the oppression of women in Pakistan, including the question "What will people say?", which heralds scandal every time a woman chooses to challenge gender norms.
The commercial ends with a close-up shot of the Pakistan women's cricket team captain Bismah Maroof saying: "Stay within the house... these are not only sentences but stains."
Social media was abuzz on the issue, with conservatives lambasting its message using the hashtag "#BoycottAriel" on Twitter.
"They (are) insulting Islamic teaching in their advertising," wrote Binte Suleman on Twitter, while Raja Moazzam added: "Please take action against these liberals, who (are) prompting liberalism in Pakistan".
Others called for Pakistani regulators to have the commercial officially censored and removed.
The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment by media.
Women in Pakistan have fought for decades to secure their rights.
Much of society lives under a patriarchal, outdated code of so-called "honour" that systemises the oppression of women who defy tradition by, for example, choosing their own husband or working outside the home.
Women also face what activists have called pervasive violence against them by men, routine discrimination in the workplace, and public harassment, with few women daring to walk alone outside of their homes.
The Ariel advert is not the first time a major company has faced backlash in the country over its stance on women's rights.
Ride-sharing app Careem came in for its share when it released a lighthearted ad earlier this year showing a runaway bride, the caption reading: "If you want to run away from your wedding, book a Careem bike!" Critics filed a legal petition against the ad, calling it an "unethical promotional campaign".
And in 2016 Pakistani mobile company QMobile was criticised after an ad which showed a female cricketer defying her father's wishes and leaving home to pursue her dreams of playing internationally.
The ad was branded a conspiracy against Pakistani values, with some commentators taking particular exception to "vulgar" footage of the cricketer running up to bowl.
The controversy started after a woman said she was assaulted and raped by multiple men in front of her two children when her car ran out of fuel near the eastern city of Lahore.
Amid femicides, honour killings, sexual assault, domestic violence and loss of agency, the fearless women of Pakistan take to the streets with loud and clear voices of protest fuelled by the right to personal autonomy on International Women’s Day 2020, March 8.
Junaid Hafeez, 33, was arrested in March 2013 for allegedly posting derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed on social media.
An informed source said, "All flights at Najaf airport have been suspended until further notice, due to the severity of the dust storm."
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Monday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
Investigators were still searching for a motive, Hallock said, adding that the alleged gunman, who was not injured during the incident, was believed to be an Asian male in his 60s.
In a statement, MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al Issa extended the wishes of all MWL affiliates to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed for more success in serving his country and its people, following in the footsteps of his predecessors.