Protecting rights of women and providing equal opportunities without any discrimination, the International Women Day (IWD) was observed throughout the country on Wednesday. In his message, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the Constitution of Pakistan supports the equal status of women. Article 18 of the Constitution provides equal space to women in every lawful profession, while Article 25 lays down the principles of non-discrimination and affirmative action in their case. In his message on the day, Federal Minister for Human Rights Senator Kamran Michael said Government took several legislative, programmatic and administrative steps for well being of women which demonstrated its strong political will and commitment towards women’s empowerment. He said there was no denying the fact that participation of the women at all level was imperative for socio-economic development of a society. The minister said the incumbent democratic government was committed to implement Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif’s vision for empowerment of women in its true spirit.
Electronic media extensively covered the day and discussed problems being faced by them and also highlighted the achievements of women. However, what transpired outside the National Assembly a day after the Women’s Day shows how far as society we are away from the goal of even ensuring respect for women, let alone guarantee them all rights and a level playing field. A scuffle broke out between Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) lawmaker Javed Latif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Murad Saeed. Speaking to various media channels just after the scuffle Javed Latif presented some very reasonable arguments and said that it was disrespectful of Murad to launch physical assault on someone his father’s age. Agreed. Various other government lawmakers also the opportunity to berate Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and held the party responsible for unruly behavior and abusive language.
However, just moments later the ruling party’s lawmaker, Javed Latif held a press talk, which perhaps was one of the most regrettable press talk ever by a lawmaker. In his talk Latif made allegations against Murad Saeed’s family that cannot even be reproduced here. The lawmaker specifically targeted the sisters of Murad Saeed during his press talk. The press talk was so reprehensible that no news channel aired it, however when clips from the press talk landed on social media there was furore. The hashtag #ExpelJavedLatif soon became trending topics as users took to Twitter to condemn the statements of Javed Latif and demanded that the lawmaker should be expelled from the parliament. One user wrote ‘If we are really serious about Women’s Day then expel JavedLatif from party and disqualify (him) from parliament. No apology is sufficient.’ Journalist Mohammad Taqi wrote ‘dragging Murad Saeed’s family and especially women into a political brawl is beneath contempt.’ Another user tweeted ‘Incredible how quickly the PML-N’s ‘benign’ mask slips to reveal an ugly reality. Once again, a party stalwart merrily jumps into the gutter.’
What was disheartening was the fact that very few from the ruling party condemned the behavior of their party lawmaker. Even a female lawmaker of the ruling party was seen defending the atrocious comments of Javed Latif that targeted Murad’s sisters.
The recent incidents involving Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, Uzma Bukhari in provincial assemblies of Sindh and Punjab respectively, and Thursday’s comments by Javed Latif put a huge question mark on claims of progress in terms of giving women their rights. When the assemblies become places of disrespect for women, what hope does the rest of the country have?
Pakistan has a long way to go when it comes to Women’s rights.
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