In recent weeks, several well-known political figures have been publicly rebuked by leaders of their own party on Twitter — much to the embarrassment of their supporters and to the glee of their opponents. Now there may be nothing unusual about that, say, in a Western democracy but in Pakistan where polarisation is a norm family members of a political dynasty are at least expected to hold things together and not rock the party boat — even if they are mortified at the actions of their own party colleagues. For the second time in a year, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari has chosen to wade into the muddied waters of politics. This time she upbraided opposition leader Khursheed Shah for making sexist comments in the lower house of parliament. Apparently when NA Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq told women in the house to either pipe down or go outside the assembly if they wanted to continue chatting, Shah joked that restraining women from talking would make them ill. Such a gag order, he said, would make life difficult for men, eliciting laughter in the house.
But Aseefa clearly will have none of that — even if Shah made those remarks in jest. Aseefa is looking for an apology to all women MPs. This is a fresh sign of change and a departure from the politics of old. The youngest daughter of Benazir Bhutto is asserting herself and instead of focusing on the malpractices and corruption in other parties she is unafraid to clean her own party’s act. Less than two months ago, Aseefa and her sister Bakhtawar singlehandedly stopped their party’s leaders from welcoming the divisive figure of Irfanullah Marwat into the party’s ranks. One hopes she will continue to soldier on and force her party into course corrections every time the need arises. Her example should embolden the scions and leaders of other parties whether they are reform-minded or not. All it takes is a bit of honesty.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2017.
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