Maryam Nawaz addresses to party supporters in Sargodha; (R) PM Imran Khan gestures as he addresses supporters in Multan on Friday night. AFP
Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has earned a lot of flak for his objectionable remarks against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz at his Multan public meeting.
During his speech at the Multan rally on Friday night, Imran said: “Someone sent me a clip on social media of Maryam’s speech, somewhere. She took my name so many times and with so much passion, I want to tell her that Maryam, please be careful, your husband might get upset the way you call my name again and again.”
His shocking statement came in the wake of Maryam’s relentless tirades against the former prime minister and his wife, Bushra Bibi.
The statement elicited a strong reaction on social media, with journalists, women's rights activists, and political figures from the government all condemning the use of such misogynist language against a woman politician — as well as alluding to her husband's reaction — some saying words like these only reinforce toxic masculinity and the prevalent patriarchal structures.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif was quick to tweet that every woman must condemn the use of such unfortunate language against daughter Maryam Nawaz, and that Imran Khan cannot hide his crimes against the country via use of such petty language and behaviour: "People who couldn't even respect Masjid-e-Nabvi sanctity wouldn't know how to respect the nation's women -- mothers, daughters, sisters.... [Imran] set out to fix a nation and ended up plummeting to such lows of uncivilised behaviour."
In a separate statement, former president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari also condemned the comments. He said that it did not behoove respectable people to use such language, adding: “For God’s sake, please don’t stoop so low.”
PPP leader Saleem Mandviwalla asked for an apology by Imran Khan for the way he spoke about Maryam. Former senator Fahatullah Babar tweeted out that there should be a resolution against the remarks across party divide: "The Women Caucus in the National Assembly should always pass a unanimous resolution condemning the sexist and demeaning remarks of any MP regardless of his/ her party affiliation. The remarks of [Imran Khan] at the Multan rally calls for such a resolution across party divide."
Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb tweeted out a still from Imran's jalsa with the tagline: "Despicable. IK thy name is Filth, it’s place is only in the gutter of history" while Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah warned Imran Khan to "rein in his language because [if need be] the PML-N also knows how to deal with those that indulge in such filthy language."
Most of the condemnation was countered by PTI supporters and some officials by pointing to what they said were toxic remarks by Maryam against former first lady Bushra Begum.
PTI's Maleeka Bokhari tweeted: "Shireen Mazari, Zartaj Gul Wazir, Kanwal Shauzab, Jemima Khan , [Maleeka Bokhari herself], Bushra Bibi & Imran Khan's sisters were attacked & suffered worst character assassination by Maryam & her foul language followed by her party men. Hypocrites & selected feminists remained silent. Respect only for her?"
Ali Zaidi, former PTI minister too followed the same line and said that: "From Jemima Khan to Bushra Bibi, on attacks on them the Hhairat Brigade exhibited shameless silence. They applauded and even publicized Reham Khan's book. Now today when there was a reply [from the PTI side], this lot is trying to prove loyalty to their patron [Maryam Nawaz]. You reap what you sow."
Most journalists categorically condemned Imran Khan's statement. Munizae Jahangir's tweet read: "When leaders disregard 51% of our population & attack women with sexist remarks & get away with it, it not only reflects badly on them but also their supporters & the society that tolerates such filth coming out in public rallies.#smallmeninbigoffices" — while Gharidah Farooqi called the former PM's comments "Absolutely shameful."
Asma Shirazi pointed out that she wasn't disappointed at the comments: "The more you [Imran] speak, the more you reveal yourself ...but his supporters, particularly women, will even support this."
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