PTI just keeps disappointing: Mr CM, that wasn’t insulting enough

Published: March 17, 2014

Pakistani women parliamentarians have always run second-fiddle to men.

If one more person tells me that Pakistan has a better record on women’s political representation than the ‘developed nations’ (meaning the US) because we have twice had a female head of state, I will use my very female and very strong hand to slap them across the face.

The Women in Politics Maps 2014 released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women recently ranked Pakistan 72nd among 189 countries in terms of female representation in the parliament. We could have been ranked even lower – there is no woman on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s handpicked cabinet, for instance.

But one does not even need the IPU and UN Women to corroborate the claim of women’s pathetic representation in Pakistani politics. All we need to do is look north to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) where Chief Minister Pervez Khattak just today told women lawmakers to refrain from suggesting development schemes and avoid tasks that fall under the duties of male members of parliament.

Since when has development been gender-specific, Mr CM?

Furthermore, in case his statement wasn’t patronising and misogynistic enough, he also asked women legislators to concentrate on policies regarding women’s welfare. I mean, seriously, if women have such an itch to do something with the opportunity that’s been handed to them by their benevolent male counterparts in parliament, they can stay in their ‘zenankhana’ and discuss their women problems. Why do they have to distract the ‘alpha men’ from their noble jobs as saviours of the nation, including women?

So yes, what was it that you were saying about women’s representation in Pakistani politics?

The truth is that Pakistani women parliamentarians have almost always run second-fiddle to men, which is why the findings of the Women in Politics report and KPK CM’s comments shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. In the May 2013 election, for example, an overwhelming majority of election rallies were addressed strictly by men. In none of the mainstream political parties is a woman in charge of anything remotely important, and a large majority of the women who are now members of Pakistan’s National Assembly have made it there on the reserved seats for women, not the competitive ones that are open for contest among genders.

The female head of state we talk of, Benazir Bhutto, was only able to become the prime minister because she was her father’s daughter. The reason she was nominated for prime minister was because she was the chairperson of a national party that swept the elections, a party also inherited from her father.

Perhaps it is because of this perceived ‘privilege’ that women parliamentarians are barely ever taken seriously, a rather laughable assumption to make if one were to spend a few minutes looking at how much Pakistani legislators have contributed.

I would like to draw Mr Khattak’s attention, and that of every man who holds the same view as him, to a report by non-profit legislative watchdog, The Free and Fair Election Network, which showed that women parliamentarians in the outgoing National Assembly were to be a lot more attentive than their male counterparts. Despite being only 76 out of 350, women members asked 1,826 questions out of a total of 3,314 questions that were posed. For some clear perspective, read it like this: while women made up only 22% of the Lower House membership, they asked 55% of the total questions asked while the assembly was in session.

As the CM of the province, it is indeed Mr Khattak’s prerogative to delegate legislative topics to his subordinates. However, I wonder if he was just as concerned about the overstepping of gender boundaries when a bunch of men decided to usurp a woman’s right to decide who represents her in the Provincial Assembly that he was himself the head of?

On May 13, 2013, I had travelled to Lahore just to be able to vote – and vote for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). I was then out in the street in Karachi, demanding re-election in NA-250. But the party just keeps disappointing me again and again.

I know that many PTI supporters, some genuinely well-meaning and respectful men, will respond to my tweets about this statement and this blog with some sort of opaque explanations, but the message is clear; the one certain change that is coming is that women can talk, until they decide to challenge men on topics of consequence.

Thank you PTI for that reminder.


Zainab Imam

A journalist, on a hiatus to pursue a Masters in Public Policy at The University of Chicago. Gender parity advocate, urban policy enthusiast. She tweets @zainabimam ( and blogs at

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ahmed

    CM KPK address was to all MPA’s both male and females not to women only. but ET have to make this controversial by changing the headline of the article. no blog written on muzaffargarh rape incident which happened in punjab but if CM KPK says something a issue is created.Recommend

  • Fawwad Raza

    Zainab i think you are overlooking the base reality that you are talking about KPK not US. How much women is involved in development project i can see in punjab and sindh. Furthermore, elected members are the prime source of needs in their respective areas while women legislators are on reserve seats. Dont you think women legislators have more job to do e.g law making then development project. Again due to your lack of knowledge about women welfare which is not limited to sabz sitara promotion, women welfare consist of their educational uplifting, health centres and home industry promotion as well. I think you want women to go street to street for development status and its solution. Please have a heart. Let women do what they can and should do. Just like you cant analyse whole scenario so you should not write as well.Recommend

  • Moiz

    Just a little correction, BB was the head of government not the head of stateRecommend

  • afzaalkhan

    This is getting ridiculous, even yellow journalism have some standards ET & Bloggers like you setting new lowsRecommend

  • Haris Javed

    lets just call a spade a spade, CM has uttered an absolutely wrong statement!! there is no need to back the wrong horse.
    And i voted for PTI.. .Recommend

  • Parvez

    The PTI has developed ‘ putting its foot in its mouth’ into a fine art and they do it ever so often.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    CM KPK address was to all MPAs both male and females not to women only. but Express Tribune have to make this controversial by changing the headline i think Express Tribune should change its Name to Express Tabloid.Recommend

  • Fatima Wahab

    “Let women do what they can and should do”, ahan….right. Which is what?Recommend

  • Amna Sharif

    Women have always and will always be given a tough time by men. Men can’t accept women as their equal counter parts even if they wake up the neighbors shouting that they do. Who likes to share power? No one, men least of all. Recommend

  • Sami

    I think it would not have something to do with the PTI manifesto but with the local traditions and culture of KP as well. Even if PMLN or any other member would be a CM of KP we could expect such statement from him as well. KPK is a Patriarchal society with the lowest literacy rate for women ( Excluding Hazara Region where Non Pukhtoons are a Majority). Working women in KPK are also non existent so such statements are a norm there. Do you know Working women are called Chindakh ( Pushtoon name for a Frog ) in many regions there?
    Change the local culture to hinder this mindset. No Wonder Mr Khattak is not the only one suggesting it as Shahid Afridi have allured to it some days ago as well. Maybe Pushtun wali and tribal customs are going too for Pushtoons to be a modern part of the society.Recommend

  • Amna Sharif

    Care to shed light on what in your worthy opinion ” a woman can and should do”?Recommend

  • Ahmed

    CM KPK address was to all MPA’s both male and females not to women only. but ET have to make this controversial.Recommend

  • Deen Sheikh

    PTI Khappay!!!!!Recommend

  • nomiko

    CM is very right in saying so, women being elected on Quota seats is just plane absurd and illogical. They should go and compete for the MPA seat rather than being handed over by the men.

    I totally don’t agree with this blog. If women want to get something done they don’t need to use the shoulder or footing of male. On one side you have this argument that women should be given the equal rights and then they demand reserved/quota seats in parliament, they also demand extra perks and privileges. if they want everything equally then they should also compete in election on equal footings.
    upto 2013 Pakistan had 22.5% women parliamentarians which is the same as UK’s while USA had only 17.8% women parlimentarians
    now in 2014 Pak has 20.7% while UK has 22.6 percent and USA has 18.3% .
    So Pakistan has been offering much more opportunity for women to be in parliament and you are misguided but Pakistani women Parliamentarian do not deliver because they are used to eating cooked food rather than getting their hands dirty…. so you are just spouting nonsense miss.. you need to get your facts right rather than accusing people…Recommend

  • Azeem Aslam

    I even dont know what was the intention of CM but i am very clear that he is good person. I also think that he is not as much capable as expectations of PTI supporters.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmad Khattak

    I think the author suffers from selective myopia with regards to the issues she chooses to endorse. We, as Pakistanis, need to understand the ground realities that govern the country. Gender equality is a principle that requires a truly educated populous that understands the fact that men and women are created equal and can undertake a variety of roles necessary for mutual survival.

    The article reeks of passive aggressiveness that takes away from the objectiveness of the piece, it fails to take into account the myriad local social, economical and political factors that all play a part in the process and seems to shun problems on a grass-root level that are playing a defining role in the issues she seems so affronted by.

    In my opinion, the issue of equal gender representation in Pakistan can wait until we have managed to set up an effective education system in place and guaranteed the safety of Pakistani lives across the country, EQUALLY. Its a shame that innocent lives are lost everyday and the best our independent journalists can come up with is sexism in cricket and Pakistani politics. What a joke!Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    I wouldn’t have been surprised if CM Khattak had given women legislatures the task of constructing that Peshawar Mass Transit route and the same Zainab Imam would have had wrote a blog saying women are not supposed to be cleaning streets and constructing flyovers or bus routes, they should be legislating for women rights in the province!

    In another news, the Parho or Zindagi Badlo program has had record enrollment of GIRLS in govt. schools of KPK.

    I’m a girl, and I don’t make a petty issue out of a molehill. If we are to be respected by people like Shahid Afridi and/or Pervaiz Khattak, we must also not judge their mindset on the bases of just one event.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Cook..? Maybe.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Amazing, how despite being a girl, I can agree with the quota argument!Recommend

  • MA

    If women compete equally, none would ever get elected in this misogynistic society. Nobody is willing to treat women as equals yet you want them to compete on an equal footing.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    CM KP directed both male & female MPA’s to refrain from suggesting development schemes but Express Tribune made it controversial by changing the headline.Recommend

  • Hammad

    Nice one.. Projecting their personal n party ideology..!!
    Just to clarify, NS cabinet has 2 female state ministers..!!Recommend

  • imran

    If men are not ready to accept women rights then Benazir never become the prime minister. the fact is that woman knows how to use its pôsition Under the lame excuses of biasness etc whether it is a matter of jobs, social status or any thing else.Recommend

  • Ammar

    A biased article by express tribune. This sorry excuse of a news publication can do nothing but yellow journalism! Read the real story here: Khattak for women uplift schemes, welfare legislation |

  • Mahvesh

    Erm, Sami, I’m curious as to which KP you live in, if at all you live there. Because that description is so off the mark, it qualifies as almost as big a faux pas as Khattak’s. No one refers to us/other working women as chindakh, thanks.Recommend

  • Ali Khan

    Ms. Imam,with all due respect, you should first study the relevant matter before commenting on it. Though I, myself, am not an avid fan of the KP CM, yet these particular allegations against him are baseless. I pray that you become a extremely capable journalist in the future. However, i also hope that you remember to rigorously research over your subject matter before publicly opining about it. :)Recommend

  • Usman

    Ok The CM made a mistake …….. I must ask the question why is it the PTI is put under such heavy scrutiny, and the outlandish comments of PML-N, and PPP are never reported on?!?!Recommend

  • Anti-Feminist

    you can slap whomever you want with your strong female hands but the fact is the fact, WOMEN ARE STUPID AND SHOULD REFRAIN FROM GIVING SUGGESTIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT SCHEMES and if you think that’s sexist and stuff AND WOMEN DESERVE EQUAL RIGHTS and all the NONSENSE. Why don’t the women build the roads and do the hard work of building buildings and streets. When it comes to the work the same feminists are too fragile for hard work :'( and they need a MAN to open a jar of pickles :’)Recommend

  • Asim

    What is the purpose of sending women reps to parliament on reserved seats. I think it was to protect women rights and work for their betterment rather than getting streets paved.Recommend

  • Asli Liberall

    “The PTI government is also willing to provide funds and loans to women for economic activities,” said Khattak.

    The chief minister added the need of the hour was for women from both rural and urban areas to participate in economic activities at par with men so as to alleviate poverty and to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

    Read the complete story. Express Tribune is famous for making story from nothing!Recommend

  • Unknown

    :) all PMLN lifafas , in comment sections says that they voted for PTI :) In Punjab Nurses are being killed on roads. Recommend

  • Unknown

    wawoo speedy blog, even news came after the blog. Well done PMLNRecommend

  • Unknown

    Nurses are being killed on road by Punjab govt but no blog by the author but for one sentence from PTI leader, ET shoots a blog in just a matter of secondsRecommend

  • Hassan

    Yeah women do ask too many questions! . Spot on!Recommend

  • Gp65

    Words fail me when i read a condescending statement like ‘what women can and should do’. Wow!Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    1) Be flexible. Learn to realize mistakes.

    2) Don’t use misappropriate adjectives while addressing others, this doesn’t make you cool in anyway. :)
    IK used slangs in his rallies, and i know he lost respect from some of my friends due to his approach.. .

    crux of the matter is we are usually labelled rigid, inflexible, apologists .. et al.. . time to get over it and make necessary changes in ourselves!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Thats even worse…….people have the right to make suggestions for their own improvement.Recommend

  • the fact is, you are saying nothing new: misogynists have always relied on these na-nau-mann-tail-ho-ga-na-radha-nache-gi type of excuses to deny women their rights. Gender equality is an input to our progress, not just an outcome of it.Recommend

  • WookieBrown

    I know that many PTI supporters, some genuinely well-meaning and
    respectful men, will respond to my tweets about this statement and this
    blog with some sort of opaque explanations

    So you just want everyone to agree with you?Recommend

  • Nobody

    What a disappointment.
    If you reverse the roles and give women far more education, exposure and opportunity and keep all the men at home in shackles, do you think they will still be the better informed sex in Pakistan? Or ANYWHERE for that matter? “Stupid” is not in one’s DNA. We are not born stupid or smart. Our environment, social conditioning, education, exposure and opportunities have everything to do with that. There are plenty of men who are “stupid” (there is a surplus in Pakistan in case you didn’t notice) and there are plenty of women who are smart. It’s unfortunate that you lack the exposure to understand that. Show mild happiness at your son’s birth, discuss his marriage more than his education growing up, save for that marriage and not his education, teach him how to cook and be an obedient housewife someday, keep him in the kitchen for the most part and don’t encourage him to go out explore or discover for fear of his “honor”, shield him from everything outside using the excuse of protection, don’t let him make his own choices, focus more on his clothing than much else, tell him he’s smart, but not as smart as women, stop his education around high school, maybe a bit of college [uni] and get him married to an older woman NOT of his choosing. Then tell me how well he performs in the outside world, how much he is able to utilize his mind’s capacity or live up to his full potential.Recommend

  • Nobody

    THAT’S what you got out of that blog? Perhaps try re-reading it for a bit of clarity.Recommend

  • James Malish

    As super cricketing star (who fires 1 in 20 matches) and giant of an intellectual pathans (as one of your fellow blogger included afridi in the pathan ‘intellectual’ list) afridi has just said in a tele interview : ” pakistani woman are good in kitchen…”Recommend

  • miniian

    disgrace to the nation!Recommend

  • Fatima Wahab

    Women do build roads. What Pakistan do you live in? I have seen women labor away with men on the roads of Islamabad.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ahmad Khattak

    The fact is the author isn’t saying anything new either. Just because the CM has said it doesn’t mean it suddenly appeared on the horizon. Nowhere have I pointed out that women should be denied their rights. Nowhere have I claimed that gender equality is not an input to our progress. I honestly can’t be bothered with this argument or even discussing it with you. If the issue is so close to your heart, please be my guest and do something about it. Please don’t raise fingers with a world view that narrow and myopic. Everybody will appreciate you for it. You’re the epitome of the Pakistani of today. Not willing to do anything about the problem but shooting your mouth off about what other people have to say.Recommend

  • ali

    If using slangs(Giddar,Darpook) is the worst thing above all corruption of ppp pmln. Voilence of for the power(Mqm,Anp) and damage to the interest of Pakistan for own political and personal interests(Jui-f), then no wonder this country is screwed.Recommend