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Imran defends his remarks on female journalist’s harassment

“No. No. No. It wasn’t out of context,” says Imran in recent interview

By Zebunnisa Burki
February 06, 2023
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a press conference. — AFP/file
PTI Chairman Imran Khan addresses a press conference. — AFP/file

KARACHI: Former PM Imran Khan has said that his statement regarding journalist Gharidah Farooqi being harassed at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rallies was not taken out of context and that in a society like Pakistan’s, “if you put yourself in that position, you are going to be vulnerable”.

The PTI chairman was speaking to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner in an interview published on Sunday, February 5, titled ‘Imran Khan’s Double Game’.

During the course of the Zoom interview, which spanned issues from the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan’s support to the PTI and its relations with the establishment to Imran Khan’s views on women’s education, the former PM was also asked about his comment regarding Gharidah Farooqi.

Responding to Chotiner’s question -- “Was it taken out of context that you said, about the journalist Gharida Farooqi, who was harassed at a PTI event: what does she expect if she, a journalist, forces her way or goes into male spaces?” -- Imran responded with: “No. No. No. It wasn’t out of context”.

The former PM elaborated that “it was just in one particular rally where they were all men, and she was right in the middle of this male crowd... anyone who knows Pakistani society, or most sorts of societies like India or Pakistan -- if you put yourself in that position, you are going to be vulnerable. It’s just common sense”.

He conceded that men were to be blamed “if they do anything” and then went on to add: “But also it works two ways... in our society, normally, people would avoid putting themselves in that position. It’s as simple as that”. On being asked by the interviewer how this could be applied to a woman who’s a journalist who’s trying to cover a story, the former PM responded: “We have brilliant women journalists in this country. They are doing a great job. But they don’t have to put themselves in positions...”

Answering a question on how, while he has expressed a universality about basic political rights, on social spaces -- how women are treated, whether girls are educated, etc -- he has not remained as universal, the former prime minister chose to respond with an explainer on arranged marriage and the limits of Western journalism: “Sometimes the problem with Western journalism is that they go into our countries and expect that it should be exactly what it is like in your country. It’s not like that. Let me just make you understand something. In Pakistan, by far the bulk of the marriages are arranged. And arranged marriages are between families. So it’s not a question in this country of going to a nightclub or discos or whatever and girl meets boy. The families put the marriages together. And also the reputation of families matters here. So, when the families are looking to propose, they always look at the reputation of the family and the girl or the boy.”

In a reply to an earlier question regarding his previous statements on how if a woman wears very few clothes, it will ‘have an impact on the man unless they’re robots’, Imran Khan told the interviewer that: “How can anyone blame women for rape? ...The rapist is always to be blamed... In the case of a woman getting raped, she’s marked for life. But even worse is when children get abused; that stays with them for the rest of their life. The ideas that came forward were, one, that we must bring down the level of temptation in our society, because you have a lot of frustrated people.”

On being prodded further on how to bring down the temptation, the former prime minister said that “Temptation is social media. On our mobile phones children now have access to information. But, at the same time, the level of the pornographic stuff on a mobile phone, which is available to children of seven and eight years old—never in human history have children been exposed to that.”