ISLAMABAD: Defence Minister Khawaja Asif came under fire by opposition lawmakers for making offensive remarks against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Shireen Mazari during a National Assembly (NA) session on Wednesday.
Using derogatory language specifically targeting the PTI's chief whip Shireen Mazari, Asif pointed towards Mazari and said, "Someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet" when she and some other lawmakers protested to his speech on loadshedding during Ramazan.
"Make her voice more feminine," he said, according to eyewitnesses. Another lawmaker chimed in from the government benches to say "Keep quiet, aunty."
Moments earlier, television footage showed the defence minister briefing lawmakers on the state of loadshedding in Ramazan. "We are making efforts so that those who are fasting spend their sehri, iftari and tarawih without being affected by the loadshedding crisis," Asif claimed.
Opposition lawmakers, including Mazari, vocally opposed the defence minister's claims. Amid the uproar, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq called for order, requesting the opposition benches to quiet down and listen to Asif's speech. "Wait until it is your turn to respond," Sadiq said.
The opposition, however, did not halt their protest, upon which Asif said: "They can't get their affairs in order but they criticise others," after which he made a pointed remark at Mazari, asking for her to be silenced.
The PTI's chief whip, Mazari is known for her clear stance on issues and her hard-hitting criticism of government policies.
Following the debacle, the NA speaker ordered that Asif's remarks against Mazari be expunged from the session's record.
When Mazari stood in protest and argued with the speaker's decision, Asif said: "I am not going to apologise, they can do whatever they want."
Ayaz Sadiq ordered Mazari to sit down and 'let him do his job'. Shifting the blame for Asif's outburst onto Mazari, the speaker said: "Why didn't you sit then? You kept on speaking," he told the PTI's chief whip.
PTI's Shafqat Mehmood said Asif, who he had known for 50 years, was intelligent and well-dressed but whenever he was under pressure, he didn't keep his tongue in check. "It seems as though this problem has followed him for 50 years," Mehmood said.
Although some TV reports claim Mazari appeared on the verge of tears, the PTI's chief whip denies having "broken down".
"News on TV channels that I broke down in NA because of Khawaja Asif's remarks absolutely incorrect. We had a yelling match until the speaker intervened," she tweeted.
Responding to Asif's outburst, PTI Spokesman Naeemul Haq said "Khawaja Asif should be hung upside down for his vulgarity and misbehaviour, and should be beaten with a shoe 25 times in the morning and 25 times in the evening."
Khawaja Asif last year slammed the PTI when the party's lawmakers rejoined the NA. "They should also have some grace, some ethics and some modesty," he said.
Mazari said, "Told Khawaja Asif if he had any shame or modesty he would know to deal with women... Luckily my voice is louder than his."