The new sports minister of Pakistan's Sindh province has challenged his counterpart in Punjab province to beat him at push-ups in a bid to show who is fitter and more suitable for his job.
Muhammad Buksh Mahar, 29, sparked an online frenzy on Monday when he a posted a video in which he challenged Punjab’s sports minister to do 50 push-ups.
The video showed Mahar - the youngest member of the cabinet in Sindh, which is ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party - doing 50 push-ups in less than 40 seconds.
The dare went viral within minutes, attracting taunts and ridicule from politicians and commentators. The young minister might have thrown down the gauntlet to his counterpart in an innocuous effort to promote sports, but the video drew criticism for the Sindh government.
Mahar was unrepentant. “I think no one can beat me in doing 50 push-ups," he said, claiming he was a sportsman who worked out for two to three hours every day.
"For the first time a sportsman will run this department," he told the media. "Players from Sindh aren’t in the spotlight and this is what I aim to change, even if I have to fight with the federal government."
Soon after, a video of Abid Sher Ali, the federal minister of state for water and power, doing a difficult form of cardio exercise went viral. Ali, who belongs to the PML-N party that is in power at the centre, challenged Mahar to lift 100 kg of weights to prove his fitness.
Not one to back down, Mahar threw another challenge. “Let’s have an arm-wrestling contest. I’m ready for it. Are you?” Mahar said while talking to reporters.
As the videos were aired on TV news channels, PML-N leaders Talal Chaudhry and Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah criticised Mahar for what they said was his immature behaviour. Chaudhry asked Mahar to compete with Punjab in creating sports infrastructure. He added the challenge should be to compare which province had more sports facilities and was doing more to promote sports.
Sanaullah said Mahar might be physically fit but was “mentally unfit” to be a minister.
Mahar did not find much support in his own province. PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri said it was unfortunate new cabinet members were doing “politics of push-ups”.
When journalists raised the issue with Sindh chief minister Murad Ali Shah, he said push-ups were a healthy exercise but a minister’s actual performance would be reflected in hard work in the department.
On social media, a PPP MP said: “The last round of push-ups should be held between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari.”