Federal Defence Minister and PML-N stalwart Khawaja Asif sparked an outcry after seemingly referring to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's new arrival Firdous Ashiq Awan as the party's "newly acquired dumper" and — in an apparent repeat of his earlier verbal transgression — PTI chief whip Shireen Mazari as a "tractor trolley".
In a series of tweets on Monday night, Asif seemed to ridicule the recent political defections to the PTI and compared the performance of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with that of PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
"While [the] PM is making history through personal example, Imran Khan is collecting political garbage and taking the party [PTI] to gutters," Asif said, in a thinly-veiled reference to politicians who have switched loyalties to PTI.
Then, without naming anyone and supposedly taking aim at Mazari and Awan, the federal minister said the "tractor trolley and newly acquired dumper can be used for hauling political garbage...no additional effort/expense" — a suggestion at further possible defections to PTI.
Recently, former PPP members have switched allegiances to Imran Khan's party, which included former federal ministers Firdous Ashiq Awan, Nazar Gondal and former Punjab governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Former PML-N leader Liaquat Ali Jatoi too joined PTI in April.
Referring to the insulting comments on Twitter, Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah protested Asif's controversial remarks regarding PTI's women members.
"We also have sisters and daughters," Shah said.
PTI leaders did not respond to calls made by Dawn.com for a comment on Asif's tweets.
However, a condemnation from PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi emerged on Twitter.
Users on Twitter were appalled by the defence minister's language, expressing their shock at his remarks.
"Are you a literate Defence Minister of Pakistan?" one user commented in response to Asif's tweet.
One user suggested that Asif be stripped of his defence ministry portfolio in the light of his recent tirade.
One user expressed his dismay at Asif's words in the following manner:
This is not the first time the defence minister has used derogatory terms for women. Almost exactly a year ago, he received heavy backlash for subjecting Mazari to the same offensive language during a National Assembly session.
Asif had 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."
After strong protests from Mazari and other members of the opposition, 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."
A day after passing the indecent comments, the minister issued a letter of apology to the National Assembly speaker and also said in a speech that he "felt compelled" to make the remarks.
Right after Asif's address, the speaker allowed Mazari to take the mic. The lawmaker refused to accept Asif's apology, saying: "Asif should apologise to me by name just like he targeted and attacked me by name."
"This apology is not acceptable at all to anyone."
At this Asif stood up and said, "I will not name Mazari in my apology because I had named no one when I made the remarks. If I named anyone, then only would I like to apologise to them."