ISLAMABAD: After an aggressive presser in Lahore over the weekend, it was the turn of junior government ministers and lawmakers from the National Assembly who, on Monday, lashed out at the opposition parties over their demand for the prime minister’s resignation ahead of the Panamagate inquiry.

Taking nearly all opposition parties to task, PML-N MNAs Talal Chaudhry and Maryam Aurangzeb fired the first salvos when they alleged that the opposition had come together in an effort to hide their own corruption, not to hold the government accountable.

Speaking to reporters outside the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after the commission deferred a verdict on the declarations filed by PTI’s Aleem Khan, Mr Chaudhry alleged that the people who were demanding the PM’s accountability had “amassed fortunes by selling off manhole covers in Karachi”, an oblique reference to the PPP.

He also derided the new-found camaraderie between the PPP and PTI, implying that Imran Khan had warmed up to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari as soon as he (Bilawal) began singing the PTI chief’s tune.

Ruling party parliamentarians take issue with maltreatment of women at PTI rally

“The nation wants to know the terms on which Imran Khan shook hands with Asif Ali Zardari,” he asked, rhetorically.

Ms Aurangzeb, who is also the parliamentary secretary for interior, also accused PTI’s Aleem Khan of stealing from the beneficiaries of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).

Women’s plight

Later in the day, a group of three women parliamentarians from the PML-N took it upon themselves to speak out on behalf of the women who were mistreated at PTI’s rally in Lahore on Sunday.

Leading the charge, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rahman made an impassioned appeal to Imran Khan to make appropriate security arrangements for women party workers at his rallies. “Otherwise, parents will stop sending their daughters and sisters to political rallies,” she feared.

“The women of this country have started becoming part of electoral politics after a long struggle, so I humbly request Mr Khan to not create a situation, where politics becomes a forbidden realm for us,” she implored.

The minister said she was compelled to make such a statement because she was “pained to see what had happened in Lahore the other day, where women were badly mistreated at the rally” and the PTI leadership was mysteriously silent on the issue.

“As a mother, as a sister, and a daughter, I need clarification from the PTI chairman over this criminal negligence on the part of his organizers, who didn’t take measures for the security of women,” she said, while ridiculing the PTI chairman for his failure to attract a large number of people at his rally.

She was accompanied by Maryam Aurangzeb, who claimed there was so much disenchantment among PTI followers that Mr Khan was forced to shift his rallies to smaller venues, such as the Charing Cross in Lahore.

“A party that cannot take care of its women at a small rally, cannot be expected to lead the country,” she said.

PML-N MNA Maiza Hameed also piped up, saying that the people should know that Mr Khan abandoned his women followers to be dishonoured by the crowds, so that they can stay away.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2016