A day after Khawaja Asif insulted fellow parliamentarian Shireen Mazari by making a derogatory remark about her appearance, the minister issued a letter of apology to the National Assembly speaker and also said in a speech that he “felt compelled” to make the remarks.
Asif, tendering an “unconditional apology to the house” for his remarks said, “It was not my intention to ruin the decorum but I was not being allowed to complete my speech, which compelled me to say those things.”
“I realise I should not have spoken so much and that is why I issued the apology [letter to NA speaker] on my own initiative and hope it will be accepted.”
Right after Asif’s address, the speaker allowed Mazari to take the mic. The lawmaker refused to accept Asif’s apology, saying: “Asif should apologise to me by name just like he targeted and attacked me by name.”
“This apology is not acceptable at all to anyone.”
At this Asif stood up and said, “I will not name Mazari in my apology because I had named no one when I made the remarks. If I named anyone, then only would I like to apologise to them.”
Earlier in the day, Asif had submitted an apology letter to National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, which the latter read out in the house.
But Mazari, not accepting the gesture as an apology, said Asif should come to the house himself and apologise personally.
“Khawaja Asif’s vulgar remarks were personal and he should come to the floor of the house to apologise himself,” said Mazari.
Khawaja Asif on Wednesday came under fire by opposition lawmakers for referring to Shireen Mazari as a “tractor trolley” and calling her voice ‘masculine’ after she refused to halt her protest following Asif’s brief on the state of loadshedding in Ramazan.
After the volley between Mazari and Asif, other lawmakers were also allowed to give their remarks, during which the speaker intervened and stopped the discussion, saying Asif’s apology is enough and that the opposition should accept it “with an open heart”. The house moved to discussing budget proposals, during which the opposition walked out.
‘Sexism is unacceptable’
PPP MNA Nafeesa Shah said “sexism is unacceptable”.
“If you continuously insult any colleague on the basis of their appearance, voice or gender, it is not just an insult of that one person but an insult of the entire assembly. As women, we felt insulted.”
“He may not have taken her name, but he made clear references towards Shireen Mazari,” she said.
“He has not just hurt her. As a woman I felt hurt and all our male colleagues are with us.”
Nafeesa Shah said she expected the caucus to condemn such behaviour and reminded the speaker of an incident in the British parliament “when a lawmaker called David Cameron ‘dodgy Dave'”.
“The speaker ordered him to retract his statement and apologise. When he refused, he was suspended and thrown out of the house. We expect you, as speaker, to take similar action in this regard ─ in fact, to go one step ahead.”
‘This is not Asif’s court’
Senior PTI member Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Asif’s written apology will not be accepted by any women lawmakers, adding Asif must “reconsider his behaviour”. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and MQM’s Abdul Waseem also rejected the apology.
PML-N MNA Shaista Pervaiz said the “unfortunate” incident “should not have happened” and called on the speaker to take responsibility for the incident. This meeting should be called after Khawaja Asif comes to the NA, she said. “Let’s see what he has to say.”
Shaista further criticised Asif’s absence in the assembly while his apology was read out and the chair for scheduling the meeting so late at 12.30. “It should have been called at 10 o’ clock so that the business could be conducted properly.”
“This is not [Asif’s] court.”
Pervaiz also called for a women’s parliamentary caucus to discuss the issue of Asif’s remarks between of the women lawmakers of both opposition and the government.
Meanwhile, PPP MNA Shazia Marri said Articles 25, 34 of the Constitution and the fundamental rights of women have been violated with Asif’s remarks, and that the onus lies on the chair to resolve the situation.