Politics in Pakistan hits a new low every day. This past week, the nation witnessed two incidents that again prove how women in politics are seen as soft targets to settle political scores. Be it misogyny, sexist remarks targeted harassment or political victimisation — we have seen how women face the brunt of most of these attacks.
Case one: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan passed sexist and controversial remarks about Maryam Nawaz at a political rally in Multan on Friday. Khan said: “I was sent the video of Maryam’s speech in which 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.” Khan’s misogynistic remarks about his political rival were uncalled for, and not what was expected from a national leader. One would have thought that a man who is almost 70-year-old, whose first wife has had to deal with perpetual harassment to this date, whose second wife faces a plethora of abuse on a regular basis, and whose current wife has not been spared either, would spare women. Yet he made these comments about Maryam Nawaz while addressing thousands of people looking to him as the future of the country. What message is being sent to our younger generation? That it is okay to sexualise women, that it is okay to mainstream misogyny? Where will it stop is what one wonders.
Case two: Punjab’s anti-corruption department took former human rights minister Shireen Mazari into custody in Islamabad yesterday. A video clip shows female police officers manhandling Mazari after she refused to step out of her car. The way that she was harassed and manhandled and the timing make it look like a clear case of political victimisation.
Pakistan at the moment is facing a national crisis. The new coalition government is finding it hard to stay afloat, the country needs a financial boost from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to survive economically. Serious decisions are to be made for the betterment of the country but what are the male politicians doing instead? Demeaning, silencing, and mocking strong women to put them down. Arresting Mazari because she is a vocal critic while demeaning Maryam because she is giving a tough time to her opponents.
One can criticise anyone’s politics but in the case of women politicians, resorting to personal attacks is unwarranted. Mazari has faced such attacks from the likes of Khawaja Asif and others. Maryam was threatened with violence by Gandapur during the previous government.
No one is above the law but abuse of power can never be condoned, regardless of who it targets or from where it emanates. Khan must apologise for his remarks about Maryam Nawaz. Such misogyny needs to stop against women. The government has released Mazari but she has been arbitrarily arrested because of the whims of a few men. It is high time that men keep women out of their politics. They cannot scare women into quitting.