LAHORE - There seems no end to the uncontrolled penchant of provincial Ministers for inviting women legislators in their chambers to give them a ‘satisfactory answer’ to their questions asked on the Assembly floor.
More often than not, they would ask the members especially their women colleagues to come to their chambers instead of giving a detailed and correct answer to the Assembly questions inside the House. This they do more often than not, and with impunity, when they are left answerless and have nothing worthwhile to state.
Yesterday, it was the turn of Syed Haroon Sultan Bokhari, the Minister for Housing and Urban Development to cause embarrassment to a ruling party MPA, Nighat Nasir Sheikh. As she was not satisfied with the answer about allocation of development funds to the Lahore Development Authority, the Minister asked her to visit his chamber if she wanted to have more details on the subject.
One fails to understand why the Minister was shying away from giving the required information on the Assembly floor. Azma Zahid Bokhari, also belonging to the ruling party, protested that it was highly offensive on the part of the Minister to invite a woman lawmaker in his chamber in a sarcastic manner. Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal also asked the Minister to inform the House about whatever he intended to tell the gentle lady by taking her to his chamber. After being pressurised, the Minister later realised his mistake and apologised for his insulting behaviour.
Syed Haroon Sultan, who now supports a beard, belongs to a remote district of Punjab, Muzaffargarh, notorious for Mukhtaran Mai rape case. A girl was gang-raped in Tehsil Jatoi in this district on the orders of a local Panchayat. Sultan was a clean-shaven man until he got elected to the Punjab Assembly in 2013 elections for the third consecutive term.
Assembly website still shows him without a beard. Haroon was allocated a new portfolio in November last year. Previously he was holding the charge of Baitul Maal and Social Welfare department. Son of Makhdoom Syed Muhammad Abdullah Shah Bukhari, Haroon is a graduated in business administration from University of Liverpool, UK. He also served as Nazim, Muzaffargarh during 2001-02. His brother, Makhdoomzada Syed Basit Ahmed Sultan Bukhari is a sitting MNA from the same district.
This was second such incident happening in the Punjab Assembly in the last few months.
Before this, Punjab Minister for Industries, Sheikh Alauddin had invited the ire of women members of the House by inviting a lady to his chamber on the same pretext. But the legislator from Kasur was never apologetic for his indecent behaviour with his women colleagues.
Yesterday’s incident in the Punjab Assembly coincided with the international women’s day observed every year across the globe on March 8. And it happened at the time when a number of seminars and functions were in progress in the City to mark the day. It also reminded the women lawmakers from Punjab a recent happening in the Sindh Assembly where a women legislator, Nusrat Sahar Abbasi of the PML-F had to face harassment at the hands of a Provincial Minister, Imdad Pitafi. It happened in January this year.
Pitafi also had to apologise from the gentle lady afterward when he was asked to resign as Minister by Asif Ali Zardari’s daughters, Bakhtawar and Aseefa. The practice of gender bias and harassment of women Parliamentarians continues unabated in almost all the legislatures in the country only because the Ministers would get away with it quite easily. Ironically, country’s legislatures have failed to ensure complete implementation of laws enacted by them for the protection of women.