Political figures and journalists came to Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb’s defence for exhibiting “grace and composure” in the face of heckling in London on Sunday.
The information minister is currently in London as part of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s delegation which is on its way back after attending the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.
Videos widely shared on social media showed Aurangzeb being harassed and heckled by people wearing PTI colours in a shop. In another video, some of the same people chanting “chorni, chorni” (thief) can be seen following a masked Aurangzeb, as the woman filming her says she “makes grand claims on television there and she does not have a dupatta on her head”.
In a video shared by journalist Syed Talat Hussain, Aurangzeb can be seen in what appears to be a coffee shop, encircled by PTI supporters who are yelling and jeering at her and recording her with their mobile phones. She takes a sip of her drink unfazed as one heckler yells through a megaphone at her.
Addressing the incident in a reply to Hussain, she said she was “sad to see the toxic impact [PTI Chairman] Imran Khan’s politics of hate and divisiveness have had on our brothers and sisters.”
Aurangzeb said she had stayed and answered “each and every question” of the riled-up crowd.
“We will continue our work to counter Imran Khan’s toxic politics and bring people together.”
Finance Minister Miftah Ismail said he saluted her for her “grace and composure in the face of such harassment and baseless lies”.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal termed the incident as the “most deplorable, condemnable and shameful act by PTI hooligans”.
He praised the information minister for showing grace and “boldly” facing the crowd. “Truly a lioness!” Iqbal added.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif called those harassing her the “lowest level of our society”.
He warned that such a violent trend in politics would destroy society.
Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, daughter of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari, also expressed her support.
The incident was also widely condemned by those in the journalist community. Veteran journalist Mubashir Zaidi said his respect for Aurangzeb had only increased after how she handled the situation.
This is not the first time the information minister has been subjected to harassment from PTI supporters. In April, a group of Pakistani pilgrims accosted, heckled and chanted slogans PM Shehbaz and his entourage at the Masjid-i-Nabwi in Madina during their three-day visit to Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunate scenes were witnessed at the holy mosque when PM Shehbaz and his delegation arrived there. According to videos circulating on social media, Pakistani pilgrims at the mosque started chanting slogans of “chor” (thieves) as soon as they saw the prime minister.
In another video, the pilgrims could be seen heckling and chanting abusive slogans against Aurangzeb.
Later, in a video message in response to the chants, Aurangzeb had said the act was perpetrated by a “select group”, while most Pakistanis respected the sanctity of the holy mosque. “I don’t want to name the person responsible for this incident because I don’t want to use this holy land for political purposes.”
Politicians and other religious figures had condemned the incident and some had blamed the PTI.