In a country with barely any women rights, Nusrat Abbasi just made matters worse

Published: January 25, 2017
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How important is the calibre of female representation in the Assembly to us? PHOTO: SCREEN GRAB

In the land of sufis and saints, the province which gave birth to Benazir Bhutto and where Abida Parveen’s voice transcends gender, we saw a despicable example of massive regression to the Stone Age.

Recently, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Provincial Minister Imdad Pitafi disrespected a woman, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s (PML-F) MPA Nusrat Abbasi, by passing offensive and sexist remarks in the Sindh Assembly. The incident repelled every ethical Pakistani. It symbolised everything that is wrong with Sindh right now – a man of such caliber, bearing Bhutto’s party name, with an important portfolio to boot (minister for Works and Services), having the audacity and the ignorance to disrespect a woman parliamentarian and guffaw arrogantly on national television.

Furthermore, it was worse to see Assembly Speaker Shehla Raza laughing indulgently at the remarks while half-heartedly berating her fellow party members, and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was seen sitting apathetically with a cheeky smile. This only went on to show the internal culture of the ruling party, PPP.

Abbasi, who is known for her loud opinions and active role as opposition, received a lot of vocal support from personalities across the spectrum. With the world charged with the Women’s March and Donald Trump’s misogynistic and chauvinistic rhetoric, we Pakistanis were rightfully and righteously indignant.

However, it was unfortunate, then, to have the honourable MPA stand on the steps of the Sindh Assembly with a half-filled bottle of petrol, demanding Pitafi be stripped off his titles, or else she will self-immolate.

Pitafi, little known except for his scavenging of party bigwigs and alleged setting up of illegal toll plazas, has now shot to fame with yet another black mark on his resume.

In an environment positively charged towards her, with notable women and men of every profession, every political party, speaking in her favour, Abbasi managed to do herself more of a disservice than the barely literate and allegedly corrupt minister possibly could. By stating that the only avenue she had, if her demand was not met, was to publicly commit suicide, depicted her as no more empowered and no less helpless than the countless, uneducated women of the country.

If a sitting MPA, a public representative, presents that the only course of action she has is to end her life in order to counter injustice, Abbasi has made no less a mockery of the Provincial Assembly and of women’s rights than Pitafi has.

Pitafi’s insincere apology followed during the session, after major pressure and backlash from his leadership, and so he lumbered off to Abbasi’s seat, with a saccharine promise to make her his sister once he donned a chador upon her head. Since this is a grand gesture as per the customs of Sindh, Abbasi tearfully acquiesced and forgave her abuser.

Soon after, everyone picked up their clubs, climbed up their respective mammoths and shuffled off to their caves. Because this is what it has come to – a complete disintegration of education, public representation, accountability, human rights and manners. This whole sordid saga should make us ask some very pertinent questions.

Who is Imdad Pitafi and what could possibly qualify him to be the Minister of Works and Services? Is his BA degree from Jamshoro University, legitimate and enough? And seeing as he has had no prior experience with a portfolio, or years of political maturity, is it safe to assume he is a ministerial novice, especially to as essential a ministry as this one?

Furthermore, given that he is a member of four important Standing committees (Excise and Taxation, Irrigation and Power, Local Government, and Youth Affairs and Sports) doesn’t his behaviour, mind-set and lack of professional education warrant his stepping down in favour of someone better qualified?

Most importantly, how important is the calibre of female representation in the Assembly to us?

In conclusion, it is imperative to remember that we have entrusted our province and Assembly to the likes of these people. Before we laugh it off as another media circus, we must keep in mind that they affect us, they represent us, and they hold the power to help or hurt countless lives.

Suroor Siddiqi

Suroor Siddiqi

Dedicated humanist, mother and wife. Graduate in design, compulsive reader and interested in anything for the well-being of Pakistan. She tweets @SuroorSiddiqi (twitter.com/SuroorSiddiqi)

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

  • Midhat

    An excellent read. You summed up this entire bizarre saga and its even bizarre end very eloquently. Very depressing state of affairs when it comes to our so called representatives. Corrupt, uneducated and unqualified for their jobs they had always been, but now with such blatant display of disrespect and shamelessness, it is hard to expect anything good coming out of this assemblyRecommend

  • Ali S

    Hopeless PPP needs to be pushed back. Karachiites and urban Sindhis have had enough of it.Recommend

  • abc

    Who cares? Pakistanis are much more concerned about India than fixing their own country.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Yes the sordid affair does raise a pertinent question. Is an emotionally unstable woman like Nusrat Abbassi, who threatens to commit suicide on the slightest perceived offense and routinely creates drama in the assembly, qualified to be in the house of representatives?Recommend

  • raj

    I don’t think you can conclude that a country has no women rights just bcz few uneducated are sitting in the parliament.. u knw how these are selectedRecommend

  • Sane

    Nusrat Sehar Abbassi and Imdad Patafi both belong to wadera culture. They protect each other unless there is a personal matter. By pardoning Imdad Patafi, she protected wadera system. Women rights and respect of women do not exist in wadera system.Recommend

  • hina

    These
    are politicians under whom supervision other women are also mistreated,
    if he abuse a woman publicly in the PARLIAMENT, then imagine what can
    he do outside or in his hometown in which falsehood has influence.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    if pakistan is such barbaric place for women then how come you are flourishing?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    If Pakistan is just a barbaric place for women then how come women have freedom to express themselves however they want to?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    If Pakistan is such a barbaric place for women then how come it has produced modern, bold, forward thinking liberal women like mahnoor baloch, amna haq, mehwish hayat just to name a few.

    Now please dont say that they are elite class. You dont know nothing about their backgrounds and struggles.

    Oh whats that? Their names dont ring a bell for you? Thats because there was no honor killing or acid attack or a gunshot in the ahead accompanied by any of their acts of freedom/boldness/liberalness/free speech or whatever u want to call it BUT I am pretty sure if some sort of violence had occured, fake pakistani liberals’ crocodile tears would have been pouring non stop all over social media until they had made sure the news will be picked up by the international media, thus hampering its tourism industry, Madonna would have dedicated her next tour in the names of those 3 bold pakistan women and sharmeen obaid would have already began production of her already expected to be a oscar nominee documentary in the making about how Pakistan is a dangerous place for female artists and models.

    Yup, you would have left no stone unturned to completely hamper pakistan’s image.

    BUT since none of that ever happened, ofcourse fake pakistani liberals gave absolutely ZERO acknowledgement and paid no heed whatsoever to whatever bold and liberal stuff these REAL pakistani women had been doing in their lives all along contributing their efforts towards growth and success of pakistan’s now very progressive and flourishing, TV, MODELLING, FASHION AND FILM Industries.

    Are paki liberals gonna make a hoopla and fuss about this? Absolutely not.
    Is sharmeen gonna make a documentary about showing strong liberal pakistani women in positive light? Absolutely not.
    But they sure were quick to do it when Qandeel got killed, which had nothing to do with women being oppressed or anything like that in all honesty.

    This shows how programmed and influenced their liberal mindset really is to please the West in whatever way they can.Recommend

  • farhan

    The thing is .. He just called her a ‘drama queen’ which she clearly displayed after threatening to set herself on fire. Feminists acting crazy as usualRecommend

  • farhan

    he rightly called her a drama queen..dont know whats so wrong with this world..everything offends somebody..Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan is not barbaric for women. Take care of your home India.Recommend

  • Sane

    Yes, we are concerned about India and don’t want mindset of Indians come to Pakistan. Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    Im Pakistani?Recommend