An Indecent Proposal
The journey post Panama Papers Judgment bringing Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 into the public domain is quite preposterous and deplorable. Members of Parliament have managed to snuggle out of their basic responsibility of deliverance and have brought the debate of being ‘sagacious’ and ‘righteous’ to the streets. Ms. Ayesha Gulalai’s recent outrage of leveling serious allegations of harassment against Mr. Imran Khan is an apt reflection of how parliamentarians are taking the debate to a mundane level, not realizing that only a declaration and/or conviction by a court of law, as opposed to a perception, is capable of disqualifying a Member of the Assembly under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
Parliamentarians cannot be treated as ordinary citizens as the Constitution requires them to adhere to a higher standard. Article 62 requires them to be ‘sagacious’ and ‘righteous’ which is why the allegations leveled by Ms. Gulalai cannot be left hanging in the air. Now that she appears to have allegedly shown these messages to a senior journalist, the situation has become a little different. Mr. Imran Khan’s response to Ms. Gulalai’s allegations with respect to the alleged text messages was not convincing at all because there wasn’t any. The most disturbing aspect of the whole issue was Mr. Naeem-ul-Haq’s tweet, whereby he clearly accepts not only messaging her but also defending his discussion on discussing a ‘marriage proposal’ with her. I find the whole discussion of this so-called marriage proposal quite disgusting and obnoxious. We all know what kind of marriage proposals Mr. Haq must have tried discussing with her and others with a history of such allegations.
Harassment at the workplace is quite common in Pakistan, and as a lawyer who has had the opportunity to scrutinise the Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Act 2012 while being member of the committee responsible for reforming the Act, I have observed that this law seems to be the most violated law in the country. Women in Pakistan don’t feel safe at their workplaces primarily because of so-called ‘marriage proposals’ that men are willing to extend every now and then. The underlying idea of these proposals is to merely get intimate with the females, not realizing that these women are working not to attract such proposals but to earn their livelihoods by pursuing their passion. Men will have to stop looking at women like commodities, which is not only mandated by the law and Constitution but most importantly by our religion where a woman has been placed at an elevated stature.
Those suggesting that Ms. Gulalai should have left the party when she got the first text need to understand that she is completely within her rights to pursue her political aspirations in line with the political party’s manifesto and without being a slave to the party leaders’ desires, whims and wishes. She can stay within the party and object to or point out any unreasonable act of the party leader or any other person. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) may have been formed by Mr. Imran Khan but he himself is subservient to the constitution of the party and its discipline.
Ms. Gulalai, as a parliamentarian, needed to be vary of a few things though. She is no more associated with the PTI but has chosen to retain her seat in the National Assembly on the pretext that that she is holding it on trust for the electorate. Ms. Gulalai, you are not an elected member and even otherwise if you had left PTI, under Article 63-A of the Constitution you were duty-bound to vacate your seat. Ms. Gulalai was selected as a Member on a reserved seat for women, therefore it becomes more difficult for her to retain the seat and continue. I fully conform to her sentiment and zeal to work effectively for the cause but she must understand that in doing so she is guided by the Constitution which has prescribed a different mode.
Ms. Gulalai appears to have punched a lot of holes in her case, not because something never happened on the lines of her allegations, but because she cannot take a moral high ground on account of her decision to continue as a Member despite legal restrictions. It also does not mean that her case cannot be discussed on media and nothing should be done about it. The aspect of harassment highlighted by her certainly needs more probe. The Prime Minister has also taken up this issue in Parliament and I expect concrete steps from him instead of using it as a tool to respond to Mr. Imran Khan.
An earlier version of this article appeared in Pakistan Today.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.