If your house is burning

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  • Imran Khan should remember he is PM

The Prophet Muhammad would target the leaders of a community when spreading his message. This was not because he was a sycophant, but because he knew that values trickle down.

On Wednesday one of Mr. Trump’s supporters said, “Shoot them!” when referring to migrants to the USA, and President Trump let the supporter’s comment go with an indulgent laugh. Mr. Trump’s reaction carries much more resonance than the supporter’s because Mr. Trump is the President of the country.

After hearing many angry responses to the episode, among them several saying that such a reaction from the top brass should not be allowed to slide, you wonder what happened to the comment made by our own PM about Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the one where he called him ‘sahiba’. There is no difference between this comment and Mr. Trump’s reaction. In fact, the likeness between the two leaders reveals itself regularly, and quite astonishingly.

The fight for gender equality has been going on for generations all over the world, including here in Pakistan. By that one comment Mr Khan set back years of hard work by activists everywhere, including at home

Because he is the PM, what Mr Khan says, matters. His comment demeans the female gender because he used the term ‘sahiba’ as a joke. And true enough, The Guardian recently reported that in Pakistan, ‘stories of murdered women are recorded with grim regularity in one and a half inches of a single newspaper column.’

Mr Khan’s comment not only lays him open to an accusation of libel, it was vulgar, and it dropped a ton of heavy bricks on the fight against discrimination that cross-gender persons everywhere have been fighting for generations all over the world. It also tells us much more about our PM himself than anything else he has said or done to date. Aside from anything else, it shows him to be attempting deception.

“End your ego, think of your nation,” said Mr Khan once. Yes, he was thinking of the nation and of himself as its leader, with that comment against Bilawal, because he was appealing to the lowest and largest denomination in the country, the uneducated segment, the segment that is in a majority, from where any leader gets most votes. And yet he is on record as saying that he has always believed that one should not be scared of losing.

“Bravery is standing with the truth, and the right,” he also said at some stage. How brave is it to pander to the largest, most convenient segment of society without having the guts to fight its prejudice? Where, for example, is the action against extremist groups? “Visionary leaders do not make popular decisions, they make the right decisions,” he also said once, in which case he was referring to someone else, not himself. And the list goes on.

The hardest battle to be fought in this country, as in many countries, is the one against bias of every kind which is to be found throughout society. Those who give in to prejudice have not thought about the matter and are often in no habit of debating ideas, certainly not debating beliefs that they have grown up with. For such persons, violence rather than debate is the weapon closest to hand. These are the people who are easiest to influence and indoctrinate, who shoot at innocent children and teachers in schools, who kill worshippers in places of worship, who indoctrinate children to blow themselves up at shrines and other such places. It is a mistake to generalize, but few people will disagree that this is where the most gender bias is to be found, both against women and against cross-gender persons. And this is where our Prime Minister has irrevocably slotted himself.

No one, with any intellect worth mentioning, should care how Mr. Bhutto Zardari categorises himself, gender wise. What this poor country needs is a person with guts and integrity. Nothing else matters. Mr Bhutto Zardari has shown himself to be neither for now, but he is young and has not had the opportunity yet.

Mr Khan is neither young and he has ample opportunity. What has he shown himself capable of? One must give him his hospital and his universities. They are an undoubted achievement. Perhaps he ought to have remained involved with these things and let the country alone.

The fight for gender equality has been going on for generations all over the world, including here in Pakistan. By that one comment Mr Khan set back years of hard work by activists everywhere, including at home.

“If your house is burning,” our PM said once, “wouldn’t you try to put out the fire?”

Yes, but we’re waiting for you to drop the matches, Mr. Khan.