Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi backs moves to form parliamentary committee to investigate Ayesha Gulalai’s allegations
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday backed a parliamentary investigation into allegations of sexual harassment leveled by a female lawmaker against opposition leader Imran Khan, in a scandal that has gripped the country.
The scandal erupted after Ayesha Gulalai, an elected lawmaker from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, accused Khan and other leaders of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of sending obscene text messages and promoting a culture of sexism. The accusations come days after the Supreme Court disqualified Khan’s political nemesis Nawaz Sharif from the premiership on corruption charges, spurring public celebrations from the cricketer-turned-politician and his supporters.
Newly elected Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a Sharif loyalist, on Friday backed moves to form a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter after a group of legislators raised the allegations in the House. “This is an issue concerning the House’s integrity—I will suggest forming a closed-door, special committee to probe the allegations and present its findings in the House,” Abbasi told Parliament.
In a televised press conference earlier this week Gulalai resigned from the PTI after accusing Khan of harassing female leaders in the party. “Imran Khan’s list of sins is very long but the way he sends obscene text messages—and the way women and girls are being treated in this party, I will say that the honor of women is not safe, because of Imran Khan and because of the people around him,” Gulalai told reporters in Islamabad. “I cannot compromise my integrity and that’s why I decided to take this step,” she added.
Gulalai has not publicly released any of the alleged text messages, prompting Khan’s supporters to allege that the case is politically motivated.
Khan, along with the PTI’s top brass, batted down the allegations, accusing the ruling PMLN of using money to defame political rivals. “I was astonished to hear that. I suspect that the [PMLN] has used her against me,” Khan told broadcaster ARY. “Do your worst; stoop as low as you can; me & my struggle-hardened party will become ever stronger IA,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
The accusations have evoked a social media storm and provoked a debate on sexual harassment in Pakistan. Khan’s opponents have accused him of sexism, while his supporters have used social media to call for acid attacks on Gulalai for her allegations.
The backlash targeting Gulalai in particular provoked criticism from women’s rights activists, who said the claims should be investigated rather than met with threats of violence, particularly in a country where women have struggled for their rights for decades.