A distinguishing feature of the 2013 elections was the phenomenon of PTI’s “tsunami” jalsas. What made these jalsas different was not only their size, but also the participation of women.
Quite a few of my female friends are staunch PTI supporters. One common streak among them all is that they are strong willed and independent women who are very conscious of as well as reactive to the male chauvinism inherent in our society.
Perhaps it was the association of these women with PTI, that prompted Maulana Fazl ur Rehman, to declare Imran Khan to be an agent of the Jews, who is mandated to corrupt the morality of Pakistan.
But then, Maulana Sahib should reconsider his opinion of PTI. Because a recent statement by Mr. Shaukat Yousafzai, the spokesperson for PTI’s Naya Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, aims to dispel any “jewish conspiracy” notions that the good maulana might have.
In a talk show that was about the role of women parliamentarians, Mr. Yousafzai was asked why a woman could not be made a full-fledged minister in the Naya KP Government? And since PTI is talking about Tabdeeli then wouldn’t it have been better if, off its six ministries, three were given to women?
To this question from a former woman parliamentarian, Mr. Yousafzai responded in these exact words “tabdeeli sirf naam say nahi aati, kay aap sir say dupata uttar kay, TV k aagay baith jaain…” (Tabdeeli does not mean that you take the dupatta off of your head and sit in-front of the TV)
Following this remark he faced a backlash from the host as well as other panelists, all of whom were women. Frustrated with their response Mr. Yousafzai shared another gem “aik tu aap baat nahi sunti hain na, Khawateen main aik yay bara masla hai.” (you are just not listening, and that’s a big problem with women.)
Such sexist taunts and generalizations should not come as a surprise, because they represent a very entrenched mindset in our society. A woman is not supposed to sit in front of a TV camera, and even if she does, she should at the very least have her head covered. Because not covering her head reflects weaker ethos, which somehow makes her argument less credible.
It should not have come as a surprise if the same was uttered by a maulana from the Jamiat Ulema I Islam. Because such statements reflect the message of JUI-F and that is how it won its mandate. JUI-F’s Minar i Pakistan Jalsa, probably did not have even one woman, let alone one without a dupata.
But then the beardless Shaukat Yousafzai did not win on a JUI-F ticket. He won on a ticket of the PTI. A party that, among other things, galvanized Pakistan’s urban centers with images like these:
Dupata-less as well as hijabi, this crowd does not seem one that was brought together with the promise of a dupatta clad tabdeeli. But yet its official spokesperson, one who has passed through the apparently stringent sieves of internal party elections as well as KP’s leadership selection, is of the opinion that being on camera and without a dupatta is something to look down upon.
While Mr. Yousafzai’s outburst comes as a surprise, one is shocked at the silence of PTI’s woman leaders. The otherwise very active twitter accounts of Dr. Shireen Mazari and Ms. Fauzia Kasuri are completely silent over this statement from the spokesperson of their “Model Sooba”. One wonders if this is the example that PTI is setting for other provinces to follow, and If yes, then when are these two ladies donning a dupatta before they talk about tabdeeli?
While an apology has come out of the KP government, it is not from the PTI. Instead it comes from a leader of the Qaumi Watan Party, a party previously known as the Pakistan Peoples Party – Sherpao Group. Mr. Sikandar Sherpao, son of Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, has apologized on behalf of his government and promised that statements such as these would not be repeated.
It surely is ironic, because Mr. Sherpao belongs to that camp of politicians, which the pre election PTI rejected as the “old and corrupt politicians”. Supposedly this lot had so much wrong about them that there was a drastic need for a “tabdeeli”. But comparing the levels of political correctness and decency, this particular tabdeeli seems to be for the worse.
The former CM of Balochistan might have said; Tabdeeli tabdeeli hoti hai… chahay achi ho ya buri.
Seems like one has to be careful about what one wishes for.