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April 26, 2019

Rule by misogyny


April 26, 2019

The last thing our society needs is a prime minister and sporting hero, role model for many, who resorts to what can only be called blatant misogyny in public comments. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s use of the term ‘sahiba’ for Bilawal Bhutto Zardari – and then him actually waiting for the expected applause from his audience in Wana – is unbecoming of an elected leader. It is even more unbecoming of a man who has projected himself as an educated leader fighting for justice. We ask what the comment, apparently a retaliation for Bilawal’s criticism regarding the prime minister’s confusion about the geographical location of Germany and Japan, means for a country where comments directed against women have increasingly infiltrated social media and the public sphere and now present a direct threat to women across the country.

As Bilawal Bhutto has said while speaking to the media, to be called a woman does not count as an insult at all. But it is surely meant as an insult when used this way; the repeated referencing to women in our political sphere as weaker beings or the efforts to demean men who are seen as weak by asking them to ‘wear bangles’ is a tradition that needs to end. We are glad to see a call made in parliament to demand that all male members of the House stand alongside women. The warped efforts by PTI supporters to defend Imran Khan, suggesting this was an attempt to appeal to the ‘feminine side’ of all persons, or a liberal value, are frankly absurd. We know that they are simply resorting to the blind following of a leader who seemingly has no issues using derogatory slurs against opponents.

The danger really lies in the style of politics Imran is pursuing. Despite the promises he made, he has not chosen parliament as the forum from where to address criticism or questions. Instead, he continues to turn to public gatherings as he did in his days atop a container. It seems that even after being elected the head of government, he has not moved away from street politics. Can we expect the politics of the PTI to rise above the level of locker-room talk and schoolboy thinking? The prime minister certainly needs to take his politics to a higher plane if he is to prove he is the leader he claimed to be for 22 years. His supporters have waited decades to see Imran Khan as prime minister. We hope he can offer more than chauvinism, ignorance and distasteful jokes.

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