Updated Jul 17, 2018 08:29am

It’s never about misogyny

Arifa Noor

IF this election is about Nawaz Sharif and the rest, the past couple of years have been about Maryam Nawaz and the rest (including most of the PML-N).

This is primarily due to the role ascribed to her in her father’s life, who like most of our leaders is naïve enough to always have been misled by those whispering in his ears. For some odd reason, most of our leaders — from Musharraf to BB to Nawaz Sharif — are always led astray by their advisers.

Sharif’s ‘downfall’, apparently, is no different; as if he doesn’t choose his advisers. And among the old suspects in this list of misguided whisperers is a new addition. His daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

For all her ‘sins’, apparently Maryam’s biggest one is her ability to lead her father to do so much wrong. She has caused his downfall. She has led to the alienation of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. She tried to take over the party and the prime minister house. She was the reason the friction between Nawaz Sharif and the establishment intensified to the point that Sharif was not just removed but now his party is being engineered out of the game.

For all her ‘sins’, apparently Maryam’s biggest one is her ability to lead her father to do so much wrong.

For those who see the post-Panama world of Nawaz Sharif through the lens of Maryam Nawaz, it can never be argued that however great the influence any daughter can have on her ageing father (and ageing he was for he lived a retired life despite serving as prime minister, but this apparently wasn’t his biggest mistake, his daughter was), the person we should blame is the elected politician. He got the votes. He has to be held responsible for his decisions, including the decision to allow his children — son or daughter — to interfere with political decisions.

But this argument holds no water. The blame must fall on the daughter who advises. Not the father, the three-time prime minister.

He apparently has no agency in all this and can’t be held responsible for his daughter upsetting Chaudhry Nisar; neither does he have the ability to stop her. Perish the thought that he let the social media team she runs pick a fight with the powers that be. She did it all and he just couldn’t stop her.

It is all her fault. And it’s all due to her fatal flaw — being ambitious. A woman can be forgiven a little (not a lot) in our society, but never for ambition. That is the deadliest sin of all in the fairer sex in our part of the world.

Somehow, it’s more acceptable for Hamza or Shahbaz Sharif to want to take over the party, but not Maryam. Dynastic politics is unpalatable and yet Hamza or Shahbaz somehow make it more kosher for a family to inherit the party — isn’t this what Chaudhry Nisar has always argued in favour of, Shahbaz over Maryam? Just as ambition is not evil for those who think Imran Khan has the right to aspire to become the prime minister of Pakistan. In his case, it’s a worthy dream, but Maryam shouldn’t be ambitious enough to want to take over from her father.

And no, it’s not due to misogyny. It’s never due to misogyny in Pakistan.

Ambition was also Reham Khan’s sin in the days she was still married to Khan (much, much before the book became a controversy). She wanted to take over the party; she wanted to have a role to play. She whispered in his ear about politics instead of sweet nothings. Never was the kaptaan at fault. If she was interfering in party affairs, was it her fault or his for allowing it?

But in the land of the pure, the men are responsible enough to run a nuclear country but not sensible enough to not be misguided by ‘ambitious’ women.

And, of course, misogyny doesn’t have anything to do with it. It never does.

It has nothing to do with it, not even with Khan’s third wife. The one who covers herself from top to toe, stays away from the limelight and dabbles in superstition and magic. Little of this may make its way into the mainstream press, but gossip and social media cannot get enough of her.

Her sin, apparently, is not ambition. Her fault is that she veers too far away from worldly matters. There are hushed whispers and pejorative jokes about djinns and spirits and so on. She too ‘advises’ her husband, to the dismay of many (and the amusement of many).

Apparently, if we can’t forgive ambition in a woman (because she then competes with men) we also can’t forgive her straying far away from the norm either. A ‘good’ woman is one who fits in, just right, and draws no attention to herself. And you can’t really say that about the third Mrs Khan, can you?

One wonders if her critics have heard of the writings that reclaim the witches of yore as empowered females? But then who reads such trash in Pakistan?

And it’s not due to misogyny. It’s never due to misogyny in our part of the world.

It’s not just the wives or the daughters who are treated so.

Shireen Mazari is equally guilty. She is loud and she stands out — and for this she can’t be forgiven by the PML-N. They call her names as will other women for her appearance because she refuses to play by the rules and she stands out. She doesn’t try and fit in with how we expect a woman to look. So, let’s call her names — on the floor of the house and on social media.

And in a country where we still battle ‘real’ evils such as honour killings, we can’t waste time on fluffy, Western concerns such as the ‘nasty woman’ debate.

And it’s not due to misogyny. It never is in our part of the world.

The writer is a journalist.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2018

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