ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on Monday ordered a thorough probe into the unpleasant episode during a public rally at F-9 Park.
While taking strong exception to “inappropriate behaviour and intimidation” of women activists, Khan said the PTI not only encourages women in politics but also ensures their participation in its public gatherings.
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But the Sunday gathering was marred by incidents of alleged sexual harassment of women by male members donning party caps and holding flags.
While Khan was addressing the gathering, a stampede-like situation was witnessed after activists forced their way into a women’s section by breaching a security cordon.
After breaking into the women enclosure, the activists were found fondling, groping and sexually harassing women after separated them from their families or friends. And all this happened during Khan’s speech and the PTI chief umpteenth time requested the activists to refrain from the misdemeanour, but all in vain.
The situation forced PTI security volunteers to evacuate the encircled women from an emergency exit and by the time Khan finished his speech, not a single woman activist was present listening to him.
The PTI chief repeatedly intervened from the stage directing the management to rescue the women participants. He also deplored the poor arrangement for the women.
In a statement, the PTI central media department claimed that the party would thoroughly investigate the issue on the basis of available video footage and accounts of security volunteers and affected female activists.
“Responsibility will be fixed and membership of party activists found involved in indecent acts will be cancelled,” said Rizwan Chaudhry, a spokesperson.
The spokesperson said Khan has taken notice of the issue following a number of complaints from women activists and related posts circulating on social media.
He said that the chairman has not only showed his displeasure over the mismanagement but also asked for foolproof security measures during future gatherings to avoid such incidents.
“PTI rallies are no more secure for women. During live coverage of the event I noticed boys harassing women activists. They were literally crying,” said Mona Khan, a journalist associated with a private TV channel and an eye witness of the whole episode.
Mona, who found herself in the middle of the crowd during the coverage, was rescued by the city administration. “It was pathetic. It was more like struggling to save myself from rapists out there,” she said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, MNA Shireen Mazari deplored the incident saying “it’s an internal matter and the party would surely look into it. Nafeesa Khattak, former president women wing, Islamabad, has been asked to investigate the matter,” Mazari said adding women’s protection would be ensured at all costs in the future.
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MNA Asad Umar who was responsible for the overall arrangement of the rally, said that enough security arrangements were in place but some youngsters breached the security protocol and purposely pushed themselves into the women section.
“It was a deliberate act on behalf of a handful of male participants, which should be probed,” Umar said. He negated the impression of poor security arrangement for women saying not only bamboos had been installed to separate the area but also barbed wires erected.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2016.