FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
In Pakistan, pure misogyny or pure politics?
Updated:Aug 3, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Jyoti Malhotra
 
 
Pakistan is in the middle of a raging misogynist battle, with a former member of Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i- Inssaaf (PTI) party, Ayesha Gulalai, accusing Khan of sending her obscene text messages from his Blackberrysince 2013, in the full knowledge that the messages could not be hacked and daring him to make them public.
 
 
The former cricketer and PTI chief retaliated by fielding several party women legislators – as well as male politicians – who sought to discredit Gulalai by asking why she hadn’t come clean before, and whether her accusations against Imran Khan were timed to defame and prevent him from becoming the main beneficiary of the political crisis in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified last week.
 
 
Imran Khan himself darkly tweeted, ‘My challenge to Sharif-MSR mafia is: Do your worst; stoop as low as you can; me & my struggle-hardened party will become ever stronger IA’
 
 
The alleged sexual escapade has certainly thrown the ongoing political crisis out of gear – even if it is for the moment. Ayesha Gulalai is being repeatedly asked whether she is now joining Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) party – the implication being, for services rendered — and why she had lied about asking Imran Khan for a ticket to a general seat in the National Assembly (she is currently on a woman’s quota).
 
 
Others, including some senior women journalists, wanted to know why Ms Gulalai was still not releasing the so-called incriminating messages by Imran Khan. Perhaps it was a case of a love affair gone sour? Certainly, pity was the strongest emotion that surfaced while watching several PTI women legislators attempting to defend Khan and trash Ayesha Gulalai in the bargain.
 
 
Certainly, there’s not a moment when Pakistan is not in ferment. Assassinations, martial law, creeping coups and judicial dictatorships not only keep that country, but the entire region, on the edge of its seat, waiting with bated breath for the next roll of the dice. Nothing like an alleged sexual distraction, though, to spice things up a bit and provide some dramatic relief, of course at the expense of the woman in question.
 
 
Perhaps the worst commentary came from Fawad Chaudhury, former journalist and PTI spokesperson who wanted to know why Ayesha Gulalai’s sister was “running around in shorts” and whether this was part of Pakistan’s culture. Responding to an uncritical questioner on Neo TV, Chaudhury kept saying that Gulalai had allowed herself to be “used” (“istemaal”) over the last 24-48 hours, meaning she had been put up to doing this by Nawaz Sharif’s party.
 
 
Chaudhury’s utterly unseemly and gratuitous references to “beghairat”, or honour, left the viewer not in the slightest doubt that Gulalai’s mark had hit home. Imran Khan’s reputation of being an international playboy refuses to go away, notwithstanding the amazing work he has put in to raise from scratch a cancer hospital in Pakistan as well as manufacture a political party that is giving Nawaz Sharif a run for its money.
 
 
In fact, barely three days after Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court, Imran Khan brought Islamabad to a halt with a rally that hasn’t been seen in these parts before for some time. Zebunissa Burki, a senior editor at The News, put it succintly on Facebook :  “Yes, you are free to have doubts over what (Gulalai) saying. No, it doesn’t mean its a given that she’s lying just because she didn’t come forward earlier. Yes, Imran Khan has the right to ask for an investigation. And no, that doesn’t mean she was a) asking for it, b) had asked Imran to marry her, c) got money from the PML-N and d) has disrespected ‘Pakhtun’ tradition. We don’t get to comment on her father or her sister or their ‘izzat’,” Burki said.
 
 
Meanwhile, Gulalai is being supported by a handful of women parliamentarians, including Bushra Gohar of the Awami National Party and Sherry Rehman and Nafisa Shah of the Pakistan People’s Party. Tonight, the Speaker of the National Assembly is said to have ordered an investigation into the whole matter.
 
 
Certainly, in large parts of South Asia, the shame of sexual harassment still largely devolves upon the woman who is attacked, instead of the attacker. Does this mean that Gulalai has demonstrated extraordinary courage by going public about the alleged obscenities ? Or is she a conniving woman who came to the party four years too late ? Whether or not she is innocent or complicit, fact is the trolls on Twitter are already showering her with the choicest abuse.
 
 
Sooner than later, the truth will out. Whether Gulalai’s accusations will be consigned to the dustbin of ordinary titillation or whether Imran Khan has been caught and bowled in a cunning trap, fact is sexuality in South Asia is still circumscribed by the old codes. It makes you wonder about gender, stereotyping and politics and why, across the rough and tumble of the subcontinent, women who want to enter politics must increasingly be the daughters and wives of famous politicians? Think of what Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Sheikh Hasina have in common besides their gender?
 
 
Perhaps the Ayesha Gulalai episode will blow over tomorrow, having fulfilled its main criterion, as PTI leaders say, of dragging Imran Khan through the mud. They insist the mud wont stick and point out that the PML(N) is increasingly nervous about its chances to remain in power. They believe the former cricketer and sex symbol will be the next prime minister of Pakistan.
 
 
Certainly, Gulalai’s comments have added a certain frisson of excitement to the ongoing political crisis. Even though Nawaz Sharif is down –- although no one knows for certain yet whether he is permanently disqualified or not – his party still has a majority in the National Assembly. For Imran Khan to be targeted in a sex scandal certainly indicates that the Sharif brothers are concerned about his backers, in front or behind the purdah.
 
 
The political roller-coaster in Pakistan moves on.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
Senior representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Muscat, Oman, on Monday to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent group failed to participate in the meeting being held after a year.
 
read-more
Ruskin Bond’s first novel ‘Room on the Roof’ describes in vivid detail how life in the hills around Dehradun used to be. Bond, who is based in Landour, Mussoorie, since 1963, captured the imagination of countless readers as he painted a picture of an era gone by.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
Braid-chopping incidents have added to the already piled up anxieties of Kashmiris. Once again they are out on the streets, to give vent to their anger. A few persons, believed to be braid-choppers were caught hold by irate mobs at various places. They were beaten to pulp.
 
read-more
China has witnessed great historic changes in the past five years from the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) to the upcoming 19th CPC National Congress.
 
read-more
In a move lauded worldwide, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud recently issued a royal decree allowing women to obtain driving licences.
 
read-more
Recently, United States President Donald Trump kicked the onus of the US backing out of the Iran nuclear deal to the US Congress. The question is how we interpret this technically, in terms of domestic politics and in terms of geopolitics.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive