Gendered Power Dynamics

They are not critical of the Chief Minister’s work; they are actually debating about what she is wearing and how she is carrying herself.

There are men, and then there are men in power. On the other hand, there are women, and then there are women who, despite being in power, are just seen as women. Society sees men of authority as powerful individuals, whereas the same people see women of authority through their gender. And these men shall continue to oppress women or, if they can’t oppress them, they at least won’t accept them.

One recent example illustrating this is the case of the GOR-I residence of Dr. Momina Abdullah Sumbal, widow of the former Chief Secretary of Punjab. Her residence is currently occupied by a retired bureaucrat who refuses to vacate the premises despite repeated reminders. This situation deprives the widow of her rightful claim. The late bureaucrat was a remarkable individual, an upright officer who was also highly educated. Given his contributions, he deserves consideration for a presidential award, and the provincial government should at least consider renaming a boulevard or bridge in his honor. Abdullah Sumbal graciously allowed the retired bureaucrat temporary residence in their home, yet he now refuses to vacate, causing further distress to the late civil servant’s family. If this scenario doesn’t underscore the claim made above, then the example of the first female Chief Minister of Punjab would suffice.

All the steps being taken in Punjab, from health to women’s empowerment in the form of Pink Games, 32 field hospitals, and free medicines, shall have a long-lasting impact on the improvement in service delivery and the strengthening/motivating of women to achieve their desired goals in life. However a considerable segment of society is not accepting the woman in power. Opposition may argue about the program benefits with respect to the programs they started or couldn’t start, but it is an established fact that whichever government develops something in health, it actually benefits the people. Health-related projects can’t be entirely politically motivated. A medicine would cure a disease, a hospital would treat a patient at the end of the day.

They are not critical of the Chief Minister’s work; they are actually debating about what she is wearing and how she is carrying herself. People’s obsession with Imran Khan has led them to a point where if Maryam Nawaz Sharif sits in a chair, they say she is copying Khan Sb. Contrarily, if she does something that Khan sb hasn’t done before, they say she should be charged for it—Police Uniform is one such example. Although it is normal in Pakistan to dislike and hate leaders of the party you don’t like, the kind of criticism the first woman Chief Minister is facing is not only unfair but also unprecedented. Mostly, it is because we, as a nation, would always struggle with accepting a woman leader. We struggled with Fatima Jinnah, we struggled with Benazir Bhutto, and now we are struggling with Maryam Nawaz.

A good and sane opposition can actually drive and lead the Government in the right direction. But if the opposition continues to worry about a woman in power, then it would be our loss. We as a nation need to accept women in power. However, the fault isn’t entirely the opposition’s or unfair critics’. PMLN itself started projecting her as a style icon a couple of years ago. They should have projected her genius, her understanding of governance issues, and her political aptitude—all of which is far greater than what is actually projected. Also, she is the first Chief Minister who has such huge visibility on all media platforms, including social media, even more than Shehbaz Sharif’s visibility when he was the Chief Minister. But it’s not entirely about visibility; the party must deliberate upon what should be visible and how it should be presented to manage the perception, which is tainted through over-publicity. PML-N needs to realize that Maryam Nawaz Sharif is the Prime Minister in making; she deserves the same image management that is more meaningful than visible.

Enem Ali Abbas
The writer is a freelance journalist. He has also served as a media adviser to the World Bank and UNICEF-funded projects in Punjab. He tweets/posts @EAAgop

The author is a freelance journalist. Former Media Advisor for World Bank and UNICEF funded projects in Punjab. He tweets @EAAgop

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt