Will Khawaja Asif ever learn how to respect women?
What happens when a 73-year-old politician spews sexist remarks against women on the floor of a House known for protecting democracy and human rights? The hate channels towards those related to him.
This is exactly what is happening with the niece of Khawaja Asif, defence minister and seasoned Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politician — known for using sexism against his female peers in the parliament’s opposition seats.
The internet is abuzz with his niece’s “leaked” videos and photographs in reaction to his discriminatory remarks against women lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which included Sania Nishtar, Falak Naz Chitrali, Fawzia Arshad and Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur, among those seated in the upper house.
In a heated speech, a day earlier, the defence minister termed the female senators “koora karkat (trash)” “garbage” and “leftovers” of party chief Imran Khan representing PTI in the parliament. “This is the garbage left here, which has to be cleaned,” he said, and also asked the “depraved women” not to “lecture [them] on chastity.”
Angry over the sexist labelling, the lawmakers stood in protest calling him out for his remarks. Speaker of the house, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, immediately intervened asking the politicians to remain seated, while announcing to “expunge” the word “koora karkat” from the session’s proceedings.
Some politicians, including his fellow politicians in the ruling coalition, sat through the comments — termed “disgusting” by netizens — ignoring what the minister has said, while others enjoyed a good laugh rather than asking their peer to mind his tongue or school him on how he must and must not address women — in the parliament and otherwise.
Khawaja Asif’s piercing words did not sit well with anyone with a conscience and sense of civility, particularly spoken within a house the sanctity of which is often always a recurring subject of debate among politicians like the septuagenarian himself, who did not bother caring how what he said was in contrast to what is taught to anyone taking oath in line with the country’s Constitution.
This was not the first time that the senior politico has resorted to such behaviour. He has done so in the past and seems habitual in targeting women. The PML-N politician has earlier body-shamed a former PTI lawmaker terming her a “tractor trolley”.
With the minister’s derogatory comments against the PTI female lawmakers yet again, netizens, too, have strongly reacted. Most on Twitter have censured the minister for spilling hate, discrimination and bigotry against women in the parliament.
Women in Pakistan’s political landscape are already known for braving odds to become public representatives; therefore, such remarks from seasoned peers often place them amid sexist challenges and opposition, with people questioning whether they are worthy of the coveted political standing gained.
Venom like the one spewed by the incumbent government’s defence minister shouldn’t be ignored, else the internet will never let him forget anyway.
Here is how some of the tweeps including politicians, journalists, and others have reacted to the senior politician’s immensely sexist take on his fellow female lawmakers.
Nighat Dad, the founder of the Digital Rights Foundation, called out Khawaja Asif for his journey from “tractor trolley to garbage and ruins”.
“If all the political workers, including women and men politicians, had stood firm against the foul language of these politicians in their parties and people like Khawaja Asif had to suffer some consequences, then such “indecent words” would have been reduced by now,” she tweeted.
ٹریکٹر ٹرالی سے کچرا اور کھنڈرات کہنے تک کا سفر ۔ اگر تمام سیاسی کارکن بشمول خواتین اور مرد سیاست دان اپنی جماعتوں میں ان آدمی سیاستدانوں کی غلیظ زبان کے خلاف ڈٹ کے کھڑے ہوتے اور خواجہ آصف جیسے لوگوں کو کسی نتائج کو بھگتنا پڑتا تو ابھی تک اس طرح کی خرافات میں کمی آچکی ہوتی ۔ pic.twitter.com/2XrxsDnLiH
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) July 26, 2023
— Farahnaz Ispahani فرحناز (@fispahani) July 26, 2023
Khawaja Asif's derogatory remarks about female politicians are disrespectful to every Pakistani woman.
— Shad Begum / شادبیگم (@ShadBegum) July 25, 2023
I condemn the derogatory comments made by #KhawajaAsif towards women politicians. Such behavior is unacceptable and reflects a patriarchal mindset. It is disappointing to see a member of the #PPP, like Sherry Rehman, seemingly enjoying these comments. This kind of behavior is… https://t.co/KkNQh4qUJI
— Rabia AzfarNizami (@rabiaazfar) July 25, 2023
You think calling women akhlaq bakhta, baaqiyat, & garbage is some kind of political point scorring??? you shame us all when you address any woman like this. It is even more disgusting bcz no one in treasury benches found it problematic in fact they laughed/smiled.
— Ayesha Khalid (@AyeshDibs) July 26, 2023
The fact that women from other parties don’t speak out against this kind of talk indicates how there is no room for actual growth regarding respect for women in this country. None. Perpetually shrinking spaces. Squeezed into a vacuum across party lines. https://t.co/eHSVt8kIj9
— Sophia Saifi (@SophiaSaifi) July 26, 2023
Strongly condemn Khawaja Asif's abhorrent remarks about PTI's women parliamentarians. Such misogynist mindset should be thrown out of parliament. Women across political parties should have walked out of parliament in protest. Action must be taken against him @MaryamNSharif
— farzana bari (@drfarzanabari) July 25, 2023
— Stock Newbie (@StockieNewbie) July 26, 2023