Pakistan’s new PM backs panel to probe allegations of sexual harassment against Imran Khan

PTI lawmaker Ayesha Gulalai stirred up a major row on Tuesday by accusing the cricketer-turned-politician of sending her “obscene” text messages and harassing other women leaders.

world Updated: Aug 04, 2017 22:47 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan parliament,Imran Khan,Sexual harassment
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan seen with Ayesha Gulalai (left), a lawmaker from Pakistan’s tribal areas who has quit the party after accusing Khan of harassing its women leaders.(Twitter)

Pakistan’s Parliament decided on Friday to form a special committee to probe allegations of sexual harassment against opposition leader Imran Khan by a woman lawmaker of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Ayesha Gulalai, elected to the National Assembly in 2013 from a reserved seat for women in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, stirred up a major row by accusing the cricketer-turned-politician of sending her “obscene” text messages and harassing other women leaders.

Soon after his cabinet was sworn-in, new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called for a special committee to conduct an in-camera investigation into Gulalai’s allegations. “We respect the person who has made the accusation but we also respect the accused, and it is their right to be able to contest these allegations,” he told the lower house of Parliament.

The National Assembly passed a resolution for the formation of the committee which said the panel should hold its proceedings behind closed doors and submit a report in a month.

Khan has dismissed Gulalai’s accusations as a revenge smear campaign for his role in last week’s ouster of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Against the backdrop of a furious social media backlash threatening violence against Gulalai, Abbasi directed police in Islamabad to provide her round-the-clock protection.

Gulalai, who hails from the conservative South Waziristan region and is the sister of leading squash player Maria Toorpakai, levelled the allegations against Khan at a news conference on Tuesday. She also announced she was quitting the PTI as Khan had no respect for women and she could not compromise on her dignity.

She has stood by her allegations and shared the text messages purportedly sent by Khan with some reporters. On Thursday, Gulalai told Geo News channel that Khan had hinted at tying the knot with her in his texts.

Gulalai also alleged Khan had asked her to meet him alone. She informed her father about the matter, and he had accompanied her when she went to meet Khan, which irked the PTI leader.

“I am ready to sit in front of Imran and can confront him on the obnoxious messages he sent. He put me through mental torture and pain,” she said.

The matter took another twist on Friday after PTI leader Naeem-ul-Haque, also accused of harassment by Gulalai, tweeted that he had discussed marriage with her. However, the tweet was soon deleted and Haque claimed his account had been “hacked”.

“Should I apologise for discussing marriage with Ayesha Gulalai? No I don’t think so. Nothing wrong with that,” the deleted tweet said.

First Published: Aug 04, 2017 18:30 IST