Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pakistan - Shameful Parliamentarians

The grotesque incident involving two parliamentarians — Javed Lateef of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) and Murad Saeed of Pakistan Tehreek I Insaf (PTI) – within the precincts of the Parliament is a grim reflection of the deteriorating ethical standards and political discourse. Mr. Lateef, a senior parliamentarian with three terms of parliament on his record, was heard using expletives moments before Mr. Saeed pounced at him to give a tight slap. This is not the first time that a hot-tempered Mr. Saeed, who is a young first time member from PTI, has exchanged heated words and misbehaved with seniors in parliament andTV studios.
After this regrettable incident, Mr. Saeed insisted for hours that he ‘had to’ assault Mr. Lateef because the latter was abusing ‘my leader’ i.e. Imran Khan. Mr. Lateef denied using expletives butin the video footage of the scuffle these can be clearly heard. This regrettable episode took another ugly turn whenMr. Lateef attacked Mr. Saeed’s sisters while speaking to the media at the entrance to the parliament house after the broil. This is simply unacceptable.
Male politicians routinely target women in their skirmishes. This is a trend embedded in our sexist culture. Both PTI and PMLN have been attacking women in their desperate attempt to settle scores. Recently, PTI supporters have been running a campaign targeting a female journalist who leaked the video of Imran Khan’s controversial chat in which he used unfortunate words, bordering on racism, for the foreign players who came to Pakistan for PSL. Before that, PMLN’s Khawaja Asif used derogatory words for PTI parliamentarian ShirinMazari.
While Mr. Lateef’s obnoxious attack on women members of Mr. Saeed’s family is condemnable in absolute terms, it cannot justify violent physical attacks. If such provocation were to be accepted, there would be no end to the physical scuffles inside or the outside parliament. It would be extremely worrying if a major political party were inclined to use provocation as justification of their legislator’s misbehavior. Deeming it as a legitimate defence implies that party leaders are prone to losing their self-control while hearing pungent remarks from their opponent. Should such persons of questionable self-control be part of such an important decision-making forum, remains another important question that party leaders must ponder upon.
Other than the misogynistic trend of targeting women, the practice of peeri-mureedi within political parties viz a viz their leaders needs to be shunned.Political parties are responsible to instilland nurture democratic culture within a polity. If legislators resort to abusive and violent behavior then it raises a big question mark about their democratic credentials. Both PMLN and PTI, at the very least should take stern action against their MNAs to set a much-needed precedent.

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