Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is Pakistan’s own version of US President Donald Trump and his incredibly insensitive, stupefying tweets. In his latest Twitter rampage, the minister labelled Ms Firdous Awan, who has switched over to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf along with a few male colleagues, a “dumper”. That the minister spared the party’s male entrants and targeted Ms Awan shows that sexism is alive and kicking in the country’s politics. Though the defence minister issued an apology last year for calling another PTI leader, Dr Shireen Mazari, a “tractor trolley”, he repeated the reference in his recent tweet underscoring that his apology was perfidious. Mr Asif’s irresponsible remarks demonstrate a singular lack of decorum. Personal attacks are cheap and vile and party leaders with differing views should learn to communicate in a civilised manner instead of propagating the erroneous message that it is acceptable to personally attack those with dissenting views.
Female leaders must unite to call out the sexism they have faced in office. By actively choosing not to respond, they are also sending a wrong message to female hopefuls who aspire to eventually hold key positions. It would bolster the women’s cause if PTI chairman Imran Khan throws his support behind his female party members, drawing a parallel to the strong women he has had in his personal life and understanding that women are certainly not the weaker or inferior sex.
Mr Asif should recognise that one of the ladies whom he again derided has a doctor’s title and although his comments were aimed at her abilities, if not her intelligence, he owes her and all his female colleagues in parliament an immediate apology. Such remarks have become all too frequent and require disciplinary action. Just as professional sports players are fined for foul language and journalists fired for libellous comments, so, too, should politicians be charged for their conduct.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2017.