ELECTION campaigns are rarely civil, anywhere. But when a candidate uses the personal life of an opponent — whether man or woman — including a male candidate’s association with the opposite gender to malign him, such a tactic crosses the line between uncivil and indecent, between what is acceptable and what is not.

Coming from the party of an individual who was appointed to the very apex of Pakistan’s judicial system, that distinction is even more acute.

A candidate from the Justice and Democratic Party, which is headed by the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, has filed a petition against Imran Khan’s eligibility to stand as a candidate in the coming elections.

His objections, spelled out in salacious detail, are centred on a past relationship of the PTI leader.

In conservative societies like Pakistan, the concept of honour is used to control women’s social behaviour, even to the point of violence against them.

Now Mr Chaudhry’s party has picked up this misogynistic trait to discredit Mr Khan in the eyes of the electorate. Muckraking is not a substitute for campaigning; it merely illustrates a bankruptcy of ideas.

At the same time, the PTI chief himself has also reminded us of the extent to which misogyny and sexism permeate this society regardless of socioeconomic and educational background.

In a recent TV interview, he claimed that the Western concept of feminism has “degraded the role of a mother”.

The statement is both asinine and offensive. It betrays a total lack of understanding about feminism, a concept that underlies many rights for women taken for granted today (or on which the ongoing struggle for women’s rights is based).

For example, the acceptance of women’s franchise, an important consideration for a party that likes to claim a huge female support base.

Moreover, Mr Khan’s statement pedals hackneyed typecasting of women solely in terms of motherhood. Many hardworking women among his party would attest that it is possible to be a mother — a good one at that — and much else.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2018

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