Lahore: Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI) and the government are still confused about the identity of eve-teasers who mistreated the PTI’s female supporters in Islamabad, Lahore and Bannu despite the female leaders, in their written and verbal communication w ith their top leadership, maintained that the PTI’s youth was involved in Islamabad’s incident.
The women supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf became the victim of worst harassment in the PTI’s April 24, 2016, political rally, held at F-9 Park Islamabad. A similar incident of low impact happened in the Lahore rally held at Chairing Cross on May 1, 2016. Some repetition of harassment was later witnessed in Bannu, KP as well. Except the Lahore rally, where the PTI blames PML-N for harassing PTI’s women, maltreatment of women at other rallies were accepted as the doing of the PTI’s male supporters.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior leader of PTI’s media wing in Islamabad told News Lens Pakistan that not a fraction of what had happened to the women in the Islamabad rally had been reported in media.
Traditionally, she said, women’s enclosures were made close to the stage. This time, it was done at the end, right into the thickets of Islamabad jungles touching the F-9 ground.
“Groping, fondling and smooching looked ordinary offenses when shirts of the participating women were torn open. Many women had landed into the hospital.” The worst part was that all this was visible to those on the stage, but no one took any action. All the complaints fell on the deaf ears of those holding the administrative reigns, she added.
Omar Asad, PTI MNA from Islamabad, was managing the arrangement of this rally.
“Imran Khan has since disbanded the Insaaf Tiger Force that looks after rallies and its arrangements. However, the main spoilers, Tauseef Ahmed, and Zubair Niazi, under whose eyes this gory incident unfolded have been spared,” she said.
“Tauseef is the right-hand man of Asad Omar, and he does not have any political position in the party. Zubair Niazi was the former Punjab Youth President.”
She categorically said, “The boys in the Islamabad rally were all PTI supporters. They were not outsiders. It was our crowd that misbehaved with women.”
She said that she certainly believe that whatever happened at the PTI rally in Lahore was the result of PML-N’s tactic.
News Lens Pakistan contacted Asad Omer to find out his side of the story. He refused to identify Zubair Niazi. However, he said that Tauseef had nothing to do with the arrangements of the Islamabad rally.
“It was Shoaib Siddiqui, MPA from Lahore who was responsible for setting up the physical structure of the rally while Ali Awan, a PTI leader and UC Chairman from Islamabad, was looking after the logistics and security of the rally,” said Omer.
Omer refuted that the sitting arrangements for the women were made somewhere in the backyard, in fact, he stated that women were right near the stage. He acknowledged that boys pushed the women around and even dismantled the fences to reach closer to the stage.
According to Omer, the inquiry committee, set up to inquire into the situation, has submitted its report, and once the culprits are identified, the party will get legal action against them. But he cautioned that eventually it will be on the government to try the accused.
Eve teasing has been labeled as ‘Little Rape’ by certain feminist writers.
Women participation in political rallies has never been a new phenomenon in the political culture of Pakistan. However, the kind of women who would participate were usually drawn from the party’s cadre, says Saeed Shafqat, a Political Scientist. These women, said Saeed, used to be trained by their party along with their male counterparts on conducts required in such rallies. They would dance with men and would still feel secure, he added.
Shafqat further said that the women from Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement were brave enough to take on the men in case of any attack. It was all about training, he said, given on equal basis to both men and women.
“The PTI’s popularity is drawn from the revolt by the upper middle class. This rebellion, however, has not been contained with the kind of training that is required to build political workers’ attitude, manners, and aplomb. In a PTI rally, a woman is considered an object and not a worker, out there to support the party,” he remarked.
Talking about laws and on the way out to prevent such things from happening in the future at the political rallies Dr Fauzia Saeed, Social Activist and Executive Director of Lok Virsa, told News Lens Pakistan that there are two laws against harassment of women in public places. “Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 deals with issues faced by a woman at her place of employment. While the Pakistan Penal Code 509 deals with harassment meted out to a woman at the public place, including, markets, public transport, streets or parks.”
The PPC 509 states:
“ Whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman.”
Dr Fauzia said that under PPC 509, the victim of the rally could take the accused to court. She regretted that the political parties of Pakistan had shown no interest in enacting the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in their offices.
She deplored that if there was no seriousness about this law nobody could expect the parties to show any seriousness in having PPC 509 implemented. She claimed that this was not the first time when women were molested in the PTI rallies. “During the Dharna (sit-in) days, we used to hear such stories almost daily.”
“So far no one has been implicated. It is important that PTI gets the accused arrested. As far as constituting internal inquiry is concerned, it is the easiest way to shroud the matter. Let the legal system takes its course. It is time to stop blaming women and put the wolf in jail.”
Talking to News Lens about allegation on PML-N for its role in molesting PTI women in the Lahore rally, A PML-N MPA in Punjab Assembly, Uzma Bukhari, said that it was about time for the PTI to do some soul-searching. She said that the PTI supporters were habitual harassers.
“We have nothing to do with the harassment of women in Lahore. Instead of pointing fingers at PML-N Imran Khan and his team should focus on giving political training to their workers,” said Bukhari.”
The Punjab government has initiated an inquiry, and Sub Inspector Bushra has filed an FIR as a complainant.
Dr Imdad Hussain, Urban Developer and Assistant Professor at Forman Christian College Lahore, said that men in the society were suffering from moral anxiety.
He opined that since women were becoming more independent shedding their traditional role of subordination men are finding it difficult to adjust especially in a public space.