The Punjab government has distanced itself from misogynistic remarks issued by PML-N leaders Rana Sanaullah and Tallal Chaudhry against female participants of a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) rally held in Lahore on Sunday.
Sanaullah, while speaking to reporters outside the Punjab Assembly yesterday, made inappropriate comments about the women who attended the rally, saying: “The women who attended the rally were not from honourable families because their dance moves implied where they had actually come from.”
Chaudhry, at a separate press conference, had said: “We don’t ask whose house you [Imran Khan] stay at when you visit London. It is another matter altogether what you do over there. When it comes to your wife, she remains veiled, but our mothers and sisters are for display?”
A third PML-N leader, Abid Sher Ali, also issued derogatory remarks against PTI’s chief whip Shireen Mazari while addressing a public gathering on Sunday night, saying that while she was protesting against Finance Minister Miftah Ismail’s budget speech in the National Assembly, she had said: “Don’t touch me.”
“What is there to touch?” he asked a crowd in Punjabi, in what can be described as an attempt to make a lewd joke.
After the comments sparked backlash against the PML-N leaders, Punjab Government Spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan condemned the remarks.
“Be it Abid Sher Ali, Rana Sanaullah, Tallal Chaudhry or Imran Khan, I cannot tolerate this as these women are our mothers, sisters and daughters,” Malik said.
“What Rana Sanaullah said was wrong. I condemn that. He should not have said it. What Tallal said was wrong. I condemn that. He should not have said it,” the spokesperson said while speaking to senior journalist Javed Chaudhry on Express News talk show, Kal Tak, last night.
“Irrespective of their political affiliation, [such derogatory language] should not be used against those mothers and sisters who come forward to take part in the political process,” he said.
Despite his condemnation, however, Malik Ahmed Khan shifted blame for the PML-N leaders’ diatribes onto PTI Chairman Imran Khan, saying that the language they used was not the culture of the party, but had been introduced by Khan.
Calling both PTI and PML-N out on using “dirty” language against women, PPP Information Secretary Maula Bux Chandio said that his party would not tolerate the use of lewd remarks against female political workers.
“Rana Sanaullah is the same guy who was expelled from the PPP by Benazir Bhutto when he made lewd remarks against Maryam Nawaz,” Chandio alleged, adding that today the same man is “the apple of PML-N’s eye.”
Chandio claimed there was “not much difference” between the PML-N and PTI’s attitude towards women, adding that the way women are harassed at PTI rallies is “shameful”.
On Tuesday, the spokesperson reiterated his stance while speaking to DawnNewsTV, saying that Abid Sher Ali should not have used such words as “[in our culture] one’s mothers and sisters are considered to be the mothers and sisters of all”. He also condemned, in a personal capacity, Tallal Chaudhry’s speech.
Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan, also a PML-N leader, voiced his distaste with the remarks on Twitter today: “Disrespectful remarks about women are reprehensible, regardless of who utters them.”
On Tuesday, the PTI lawmakers submitted a resolution in the Punjab Assembly, demanding the government remove Rana Sanaullah from his post for his misogynistic comments, DawnNewsTV reported.
A day earlier, Khan and PTI leader Asad Umar on Twitter had called out the PML-N leaders for their remarks.
“Disgusted by [and] strongly condemn the filthy language used by Rana Sanaullah [and] Abid Sher Ali against our PTI women,” said Khan. “In the past 30 years, these people have always disrespected women which is against our religion [and] culture. I want to thank our women for coming out in such huge numbers!”
Umar called the comments “disgraceful”, demanding that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif “apologise to all the women who have been targeted by his party leaders”. “I am proud to call the women who were at the jalsa my sisters [and] daughters. My wife was also there.”
This is not the first time that PML-N leaders have come under fire for their sexist, misogynistic and insensitive remarks against women.
In the past, disqualified former foreign minister Khawaja Asif had called PTI’s Mazari a tractor trolley on the floor of the National Assembly, and had described Firdous Ashiq Awan as a “newly acquired dumper” when she switched her loyalties to PTI.