PTI women MNAs demanded an apology from PML-N lawmakers on Wednesday, condemning the unruly behaviour witnessed in the National Assembly (NA) the previous day and calling for the suspension of PML-N members, who they blamed for attacking and injuring PTI MNA Maleeka Bokhari.
The NA turned into a battleground on Tuesday as the opposition and treasury members scuffled with each other and hurled budget documents and books when the latter continued their noisy protest to disrupt the budget speech of Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif for the second consecutive day.
Caught in the middle of the chaos, Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari was struck by a flying object and received an injury to her eye.
Later, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib shared Bokhari’s medical report on Twitter, saying that she had sustained a corneal injury.
Habib, without naming anyone, also condemned the lawmakers for disrespecting women.
Expressing similar views, Bokhari, during a joint press conference in Islamabad today alongside Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul and other PTI lawmakers, said yesterday's incident in the NA had raised concerns among women and girls in Pakistan.
"They are witness to how a parliamentarian ... who is the parliamentary secretary for law and legislates for the protection of their rights, even she was attacked in this august House (NA), which itself was desecrated," she said.
Bokhari added that her party members, however, would not stoop to attacking others.
"We will [fight back] with arguments substantiated with facts and logic," she asserted. "This is what our leader has taught us — that the women of Pakistan can present their stance with grace while representing 50 per cent of the country's population [in parliament]."
Terming Tuesday's episode a "black day" for parliament, she alleged that the unruly behaviour of PML-N lawmakers had the approval of PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
She added that while she was pained and disappointed at what had transpired in the lower House of parliament, she was not surprised.
Because it was nothing new, Bokhari said, recalling that it was the same party that had attacked the Supreme Court, unarmed women in Model Town, disrespected former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and had been subjecting PTI's women lawmakers to ridicule.
Referring to the previous day's episode, she questioned: "Is this how we want to run this parliament?"
The parliamentary secretary said there was a code of conduct and some rules and regulations that must be observed by parliamentarians, but were blatantly flouted by PML-N lawmakers.
"Your [PML-N's] oppressive behaviour was exposed yesterday. You crossed all limits."
Bokhari went on to say that the PML-N and PPP had been in power in the country for decades and now that a third party was in the government with a different stance, it was intolerable for the PML-N.
"It is not just you who is a part of this democracy. We are a part of it as well. Our stance and words hold value as well."
She urged PML-N members to listen to others' stance with patience and tolerance, adding that treasury bench members also had the right to speak.
Saying that women did not feel safe in Pakistan, Bokhari urged the leadership of political parties to sit together and address the issue in the NA session scheduled for today (Wednesday) and said the previous days incident was "shameful".
"Draw the line so that no woman, inside and outside parliament, has to face humiliation in the future."
At the outset of the press conference, Gul also said that PML-N lawmakers misbehaved and attacked women in parliament on the instructions of Nawaz. She added that it had been a tradition in the PML-N to award high posts to members who misbehaved with women.
She particularly named Ali Gohar Baloch of the PML-N, further claiming that the party's misbehaviour stemmed from their frustration over no women members from the PML-N being capable enough of contesting even the elections for councillors. Besides, the minister said the opposition not being able to find any faults in the budget added to their frustration.
Gul went on to say that the PML-N could not tolerate the presence of the PTI and women in mainstream politics and that it had turned into a party of "dacoits" and hooligans".
"But we, women, and the people of Pakistan will not put up with this [behaviour]."
The minister called for the suspension of PML-N lawmakers who misbehaved with women in parliament the previous day and demanded an apology.
She pointed out that if women would continue to face verbal and physical attacks, abuse and character assassination, no respectable woman would want to be a part of parliament.
"Do not close the doors of politics for the coming generations," she appealed.
Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Secretary Munaza Hassan also termed the misbehaviour with women in parliament "shameful" and "embarrassing".
"Targeting and attacking women is shameful," she said, adding that she condemned such behaviour and that all women must be respected whether they were from the opposition of treasury benches.
She, too, urged the leadership of political parties to sit together and address the issue.