KARACHI: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Tallal Chaudhry has landed in hot water for passing misogynistic remarks about Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan.

In a video clip circulating on social media, the former minister of state for interior, while talking to a reporter outside the Parliament House on Wednesday, mocked Ms Awan of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) by saying that she was more of a man than a woman.

“This is the kind of tabdeeli [change]... if Baji Firdous Ashiq Awan got her face washed, the way her real looks would emerge from behind her makeup... she would appear as Firdous Khan instead. This is also the real face of this tabdeeli,” he said.

PML-N leader offers apology, but again comes up with gendered insult

The gendered insult prompted uproar on social media, where people across party lines called out Mr Chaudhry’s remarks.

Shireen Mazari, the federal Minister for Human Rights, tweeted: “Condemnable statement by a sick misogynist mindset — that is PMLN’s Tallal.”

“A woman is not an object. She is not something; she is someone. You treat a woman with respect. She doesn’t owe u anything just cause u are a man. Grow up & start treating women how they deserve to be treated. #GoodQuote Condemn Tallal Ch for using derogatory language #Recidivist,” wrote PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan, the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and Heritage.

PML-N’s senior leader Ahsan Iqbal also weighed in: “We must not make political battles personal and should always be respectful towards women regardless of their political affiliation. I apologise on behalf of PMLN. Our leader MNS’s legacy is to maintain decency in politics,” Mr Iqbal said.

Soon after the backlash gained momentum online, Mr Chaudhry apologised on Twitter, writing that his intention was never to degrade anyone and “if what I said was inappropriate, then I’m sorry about that”.

However, later in the evening, he referred to Ms Awan — who was a guest on a talk show with him — as a “banda” — a man.

“Not long after mocking Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on the basis of gender, Tallal Chaudhry again makes a similarly vile statement - this time with her present in the same show@Tallal_MNA Sir, if you decide to apologise for this as well, perhaps try not putting ‘maazrat’ in quotations,” wrote lawyer Reema Omer.

Mr Chaudhry joins a host of other public figures — including Prime Minister Imran Khan — who have invited censure for casual misogyny.

Earlier in April, Prime Minister Khan was criticised for passing a ‘misogynist’ remark about Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari at a public gathering in South Waziristan.

“Unlike Bilawal ‘Sahiba’, I didn’t come into politics through a chit like the last will of his mother [slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto] that gave him the political party in inheritance,” said the prime minister.

At a National Assembly session in June 2016, PML-N leader Khawaja Asif was giving a speech on power loadshedding in Ramazan when PTI MNA Shireen Mazari protested against some points he had made. Incensed by the interruption, Mr Asif launched a tirade against Ms Mazari, saying “someone make this tractor trolley keep quiet”. “Make her voice more feminine,” he had remarked.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019