Federal Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q), which is an ally of the ruling PTI, came under fire on Tuesday after video clips surfaced on social media allegedly showing several of his family members getting vaccinated for the coronavirus.
The video clips, that were originally shared on the Instagram account of one of Cheema's relatives, showed health workers vaccinating several people gathered at someone's home. The account is no longer active on Instagram.
The people in the video can be seen flashing the thumbs-up sign after being administered the jab. Former model and television host Iffat Omar was also tagged in one of the Instagram videos.
However, the minister — in a statement reported by TV channels — denied using his political influence to have members of his family vaccinated. He claimed that teams from the University of Health Sciences came to his home to administer a booster shot of a trial vaccine, adding that it had done the same before.
Meanwhile, Omar shared the news clip of a TV channel reporting Cheema's statement, saying: "Folks — take it easy!"
The video clips stirred up a storm on social media as netizens and journalists called out the minister and the model for "jumping the queue" for Covid-19 vaccination. The government is currently only vaccinating health workers and those above the age of 60 while registration of those above the age of 50 has started from today.
The news also caught attention of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Shehbaz Gill, who lambasted Omar for the "shameful act".
"These fake liberals are liberal to the extent of swearing. They have no morels or shame. They portray themselves as law-abiding citizens but their actions show otherwise," he said.
"Are the rest of Pakistanis children of a lesser god," asked producer Adeel Raja as he called on Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar to take notice of the incident.
"First you jump the vaccination queue using your political connections, then brag about it on social media. Pak celebs should check their privilege," said TV anchor Maria Memon.
"I expect and demand an apology from Cheema. First, he along with his family did an immoral thing, and then he had the audacity to lie about it calling it a trial shot," said journalist Mehr Tarar.