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Imran Khan’s remarks about Maryam Nawaz trigger social media backlash

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: During the PTI’s Multan jalsa on Friday, the former Prime Minister Imran Khan referred to Maryam Nawaz’s Sargodha rally a day before, and commented that: ‘I heard she spoke with such jazba and junoon about me that I feel like asking her to be careful lest her husband gets upset’.

Expectedly, Imran’s statement elicited a strong reaction on social media, with journalists, women’s rights activists, and political figures from the PDM-PPP 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 “beti” 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’s 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 uncivilized behaviour.”

The former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while speaking to the press in London, reacted to Imran’s comments aboout his daughter: “Imran has set a culture of boorishness; he doesn’t know what respect for women means nor what the status and respect of women in our Muslim culture is. He quotes Madina ki Riyasat but behaves and talks like someone you wouldn’t see even in the filthiest society in the world”.

The PPP, meanwhile, has given a call for all women to boycott PTI rallies, with Asif Ali Zardari saying that any respectable households with women as part of them would not indulge in such language.

The PPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla has asked for an apology by Imran Khan for the way he spoke about Maryam Nawaz.

The 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 & demeaning remarks of any MP regardless of his/ her party affiliation. The remarks of [Imran Khan] at Multan jalsa today calls for such a resolution across party divide”.

The Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb of the PML-N 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 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”.

Condemning Imran’s comments, WAF Lahore has called for women to protest against “the crass misogynist statement” and tweeted that: “Sexist remarks and atrocious language reveals complete lack of respect for women and his narcissism. WAF demands immediate apology from Imran Khan and calls upon all Pakistani women and men to protest against the shameful remarks.”

Most of the condemnation was countered by PTI supporters and some officials by pointing to what they said were toxic remarks by Maryam Nawaz Sharif against former first lady Bushra Bibi.

The 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?”

The former PTI Minister Ali Zaidi too toed 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”.

From Munizae Jahangir to Hamir Mir to Gharidah Farooqi, 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”.

Demands for an apology continued to be made across the spectrum of those condemning Imran Khan’s statement.

The digital and women’s rights activist Nighat Dad tweeted that: “Imran Khan should immediately apologise for his crass and misogynistic comments, this foul language shows how he sees female politicians from other political parties as sex objects especially the ones who criticise him on his performance & policies. This is beyond disgusting”.

Speaking to The News, journalist Mehmal Sarfraz said that: “This is just one more in a long list of anti-women statements by former PM Imran Khan. It is unfortunate that this is what now passes as ‘political discourse’. Sad day for women in the country.

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