If it’s unfair to believe an allegation, it is also unfair to doubt Ayesha Gulalai and call her names

Published: August 2, 2017
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These so-called educated supporters jumped to the blind defence of Imran and insulted Gulalai in a way that reeked of misogyny. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT

A few months ago, I wrote an article where I pointed out that both the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) were promoting a misogynist culture. In the said article, I criticised PML-N leaders like Khawaja Asif and Javed Latif for spewing filthy language against women in rival political parties.

I further argued that PTI was also indulging in the same practice as an overwhelming number of its supporters have repeatedly abused prominent women politicians and also public figures. I cited examples of Malala Yousafzai, Asma Jahangir, Reham Khan and Maryam Nawaz. I also wrote about how Dr Shireen Mazari and her daughter were abused mercilessly when the former had left the party for some time in 2012.

As usual, I was vehemently opposed by a large number of PTI supporters who jumped to the emotional and self-righteous defence of their favourite political party. Some accused me and even The Express Tribune staff of being on PML-N’s payroll, even though the article had actually attacked PML-N leaders. Some accused me of making false analogies as they claimed that the behaviour of ‘heavy weight’ PML-N leaders like Khwaja Asif could not be equated with the online behaviour of ‘ordinary’ PTI supporters.

Photo: Screenshot

Yesterday, a sitting female PTI Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Ayesha Gulalai, made scathing allegations against the leadership of PTI, particularly Imran Khan, in a live press conference. She spoke about sexism in the party, something another female leader, Naz Baloch also complained about a few days prior. But the most damaging allegations were of sexual harassment against Imran.

Considering the seriousness of the allegations, one would have thought that PTI supporters who claim to be more ‘educated’ would at least question their leadership. However, that did not happen. These so-called educated supporters jumped to the blind defence of Imran and insulted Gulalai in a way that reeked of misogyny. As I write these sentences, the tirade against Gulalai is continuing and sadly, some PTI women are also a part of it.

The worst effect of this has been the ‘official’ response from PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry. In his response, Chaudhry called Gulalai an opportunist and a sell-out. Furthermore, he went as far as claiming that she was being used by PML-N. But he did not stop there either, as he went on to make derogatory remarks about Gulalai’s sister, Maria Wazir Toorpakai, the famous squash player. He accused Wazir of “maligning” Pakhtun culture by wearing shorts.

Predictably, his crude and vulgar response was labelled brave by PTI supporters. Here, I would like to make several points. First of all, PTI supporters should remember that Chaudhry has also made some ‘interesting’ remarks about Imran and his followers in the past. So if these supporters think that his current remarks are true and reek of bravery, then frankly, they should also consider his earlier remarks to be true.

Second, this entire episode speaks volumes about the internal culture of PTI and the attitude of its supporters. The party and its support base have elevated Imran to a cult-like status and anyone who is critical of him is punished and side-lined. Those who dare to leave the party and criticise PTI’s demi god are abused and trolled. It does not matter whether it is a woman or not, they are ready to show complete disrespect.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, the Oscar winning documentary maker, also pointed out this obvious reality in her tweet:

Third, Chaudhry should remember that he himself is an opportunist and a turncoat who left the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) when the party’s fortunes dwindled in Punjab. What’s worse is that he changed his loyalty after calling Imran names. Before joining PPP in 2012, he had also served as General Pervez Musharraf’s spokesman. Coming from his mouth, allegations of Gulalai being an opportunist and a sell-out reek of hypocrisy.

Photo: Screenshot

Fourth, he should also remember that Maria Wazir is Pakistan’s pride and an immensely brave woman. In my article a few weeks ago, I highlighted how she has defied gender stereotypes and pursued her dreams. Wearing shorts does not demean her stature and accomplishments.

Despite his education, Chaudhry has indulged in a typical male chauvinistic behaviour. Further, by dragging Gulalai’s sister into this matter, he has mimicked the behaviour of the PML-N MNA Javed Latif. Ironically at that time, he had vehemently condemned Latif yet now he ends up hypocritically emulating him.

Fifth, this episode highlights one of our society’s deep-rooted problems. Whenever a woman musters up the courage to speak up against harassment, instead of sympathy and encouragement, she faces ridicule. This problem of blaming the victim becomes more acute when the alleged harasser is a famous person. Allegations like ‘she is just doing this to garner fame’ become a common tactic to disregard the victim. At times, women also partake in this victim-blaming exercise which shows that misogyny is deeply rooted and has been internalised.

Many PTI supporters have pointed that it is unfair to simply ‘believe’ an allegation. To be fair, it is perhaps not right to simply believe the accuser. Every accused person should be given a chance to defend himself. However, by the same logic, it is also unfair to simply doubt the accuser and call Gulalai names. I think Mehreen Zahra Malik has put it eloquently in her tweet:

Perhaps we should all listen to this advice.

raza.habib

Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

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

  • osman

    lifafa. 90% of his blogs are against PTI.Recommend

  • ss

    typical response of a PTI follwer blinded by Khan’s love. You are no different from the jialas and the noonis you so vigorously despise.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your comment mentions Imran Khan….while the video you posted is about Nawaz Sharif……would you like to clarify ? Have I missed something ?Recommend

  • RHR

    At least learn maths. I have written 60 articles and only 12 or 13 pertain to PTI. That is hardly 90%. Typical PTI self obsessionRecommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    That’s funny, you don’t remember the wild allegations leveled by Imran Khan in the past? Like 35 punctures, for instance?Recommend

  • salman

    You need to rewatch it with your anti-PTI glasses on. Then it will all make sense!Recommend

  • salman

    Reminds me of DAniyal Aziz – just less paranoid :)Recommend

  • salman

    Yes, you missed the sarcasm :)Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    In any civilized country (like UK), a man accused of sexual harassment would have to resign and face humiliation (if he could not prove his innocence). In the US recently, Anthony Wiener (married to Huma Abedin) was in a similar situation to what Imran Khan is in today. He had to resign from Congress. In the 1960s, UK’s defense minister John Profumo had to resign in disgrace after being found involved with two call girls. Imran Khan should either prove his innocence, or quit politics permanently,Recommend

  • salman

    I don’t know if this lady is lying or not. But she did say that in her press conferences she will show the evidence. She didn’t. Then she says she is too busy with her Phd to go to court. Does she want anything done about it, or is she just happy to make accusations and leave it at that? Just wondering…Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    So it is up to the man to prove she is lying, and this can be done only if he submits his cell phone for examination. If he does not do so, it should be assumed he is guilty. And knowing him, this is not the last accusation against him. I’m confident there will be more scandals in the near future.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    I heard a woman (Alia Hamza) of PTI talking about Aisha’s sister wearing un-Islamic dress. The irony was that Alia’s head was uncovered all the time she was talking about Islam! Either she should follow the Islamic dress code or stop telling others what to wear.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “He has women throwing themselves at him everywhere he goes”. Really? Would you count Jemima & Reham Khan among those who throw themselves at him?Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    You can’t ask a woman to prove sexual harassment. It’s up to the man (in such cases) to prove that he is innocent, and that can be done easily if he submits his smart phone to the authorities. If he’s proved innocent, he can take legal action against her. If he refuses to give his phone, there is definitely something wrong, and he should quit politics altogether.Recommend

  • RHR

    PTI supporter?
    Read the full article at least! It actually answers many points! You leapt to the conclusion after a para!
    Recommend

  • RHR

    And you have to watch and listen after removing your PTI rose tinted glasses! Recommend

  • RHR

    PTI supporter?Recommend

  • ab

    I am a PTI supporter and i would love to see all the allegation ,including text messages being discussed in the court of law.Recommend

  • salman

    I did notice that you didn’t correct or refute layla hai’s initial comment :)Recommend

  • salman

    But in this case, she herself said she will provide the proof in her press conference. Then she didn’t. No one is forcing her, she volunteered to do it. Then didn’t.Recommend

  • Shah

    Your Anti PTI Bias Is Making You Write Pathetic Comments.It Was Miss Gulalai That Was Being High and Mighty Accusing Imran Khan of Promoting Western Culture.Of Course People Were Going To Point Out
    The Western Culture Existing In Her Own Home

    It Was Not PTI That Was Claiming To Be The Torch Bearers of Pashtun Traditions and Eastern Culture It Was Miss GulalaiRecommend

  • Shah

    If I Started Writing About The Moral Standards Of Indians My Post Would Become A Blog In ItselfRecommend

  • Asif Paracha

    Why did Gulalai wait for four years before making these allegations? Appears to be a set up against IK.Recommend

  • Sane

    Why she was silent since when she received first SMS in 2013? Why she was bearing all kind of injustice to her for four years? What about allegations made by her assistant for getting commission out of development projects? She must speak about this also.Recommend

  • Sane

    Listen what is rational. Don’t be biased.Recommend

  • Parvez

    In most of your comments your bias and dislike comes through loud and strong…..so when you decided to be cryptic here, I had to ask.
    Thank you for replying in your normal style.Recommend

  • salman

    Surely you mean alleged harassment?Recommend

  • salman

    Maybe, but I did enjoy the video of Kim Barker.Recommend

  • RHR

    Wow! Such research! Yes the sole purpose of my life is to malign the greatest leader! And yes I get paid by millions and millions
    By the way you forgot at least 45 other articles which range from gender, Turley to treatment of minorities
    But I understand. Typical PTI self obsessionRecommend

  • RHR

    I like your name! GhaziRecommend

  • RHR

    Thank you “neutral” PTI commentators
    Recommend

  • RHR

    It is not 18 as even articles like the one about Jemima are lumped with PTI. And if an article even mentions PTI it has been included.
    But even if it is 18, then 18 out of 60 is not 90%Recommend

  • RHR

    She has shown it to Hamid MIR and she is willing to take it to court.Recommend

  • RHR

    PTI supporter? I like the nick sane! A sane PTI supporter! An oxymoronRecommend

  • Abdul moiz

    Even if the allegations are 100% true , The timing is suspect and puts the actual motive in question, and it definitely doesn’t seem that the motive behind “IMU is lewd on IMO” is self respect or women’s rights ..its political revenge

    As an anarchist I will be extremely thrilled, if this stunt actually topples IK.. But let’s call it what it is … A stuntRecommend

  • layla hai

    I support PTI because I think it is the only party right now that has the potential to atleast the organised corruption in pakistan at all levels.Recommend

  • layla hai

    A party consists of more than a single person. You can not expect everyone in the party having the same acumen or sense of morality. What matters is the overall direction that a party is taking. It is akin to the erratic behavior of gas molecules, their individual motion is so random, yet on macro scale they seem to perform similarly.
    And it is not necessary at all to classify a logical, thinking, questioning mind as either PTI supporter or a PML-N supporter. Though no one having an ounce of brain would support a looter/thief.Recommend

  • Ghazi Gul

    Well, it does have individuality and a ring to itRecommend

  • Parvez

    Ha, ha …….good luck .Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nothing like that ….. let’s see where this actually goes.Recommend

  • Phantom

    I did read the article…I also read the previous one.
    I quoted the para because it highlights the bias that I feel the writer exhibits in most of his writings.

    I agree with the writer as far as name calling goes. It is uncivilized to call people names and use profane language. By anyone, including the PTI supporters.

    However, it is certainly not unfair to cast doubt on Ms Gulalai’s allegations.
    She decided to go public with her allegations without providing an iota of proof…creating a distraction from the judicial/political climate and nothing else…
    Lets agree to call a spade a spade…Recommend

  • Patwari

    Now that, got a chuckle out of you. Good.Recommend

  • Patwari

    You are right. He has his following, his fans. Young and old.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The business of her ‘ showing ‘ the text to Hamid Mir is soooo lame that it’s almost laughable….even Hamid Mir’s body language and reply when questioned on GEO TV by another anchor was uncomfortable to say the least.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I did comment on the point of her showing the text to Hamid Meer…..but sadly the blog police scrapped my comment. It’s a shame that comments even in the blog section are being disallowed.Recommend