Shireen Mazari, a prominent figure in Pakistani politics, has bid farewell to the political arena, leaving behind a void of strong women in the field. While her departure may not be unique among politicians leaving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party following the riots after Imran Khan’s arrest, Mazari’s exit has undoubtedly shaken us the most.
Mazari, a former human rights minister, has always been known for her bold and unapologetic persona. From her vibrant hair to her spirited personality, she has never been one to conform to societal expectations. Despite facing criticism and backlash, she has remained undeterred and resolute in her beliefs.
Over the past year, her Twitter comments have taken a more contentious and conspiratorial tone. Nevertheless, Mazari has consistently demonstrated unwavering determination. She has endured sexist attacks from her parliamentary colleagues, received abuse for upholding democratic principles, and proudly allowed her daughter to vote for a different political party, refusing to be intimidated as a woman in power. She has worked tirelessly on sensitive issues such as the plight of “missing persons” and championed various legislation. Her departure from politics during these tumultuous times calls for reflection and lamentation from all of us.
Regardless of one’s support for the PTI, the treatment of its leaders and supporters should raise concerns. Mazari, who was considered “unbreakable” in the face of adversity, deciding to leave is troubling for women in Pakistani politics and further narrows the already limited space for female representation at the top.
Her decision to step away follows a series of arrests and turmoil for her family, particularly her daughter, lawyer Imaan Mazari-Hazir. Imaan faced social media attacks for allegedly being a factor in her mother’s exit, despite her role as a dedicated daughter fighting for her mother’s release. It is important to remember that Imaan, despite her legal prowess, was simply advocating for justice, and should not be subjected to criticism.
Comparisons between PTI women leaders and Benazir Bhutto and her time in jail have also been unfavorable. While both faced hardships during their respective incarcerations, glorifying struggle and pain is unnecessary. No individual, whether Benazir or PTI leaders, should have to endure the same challenges. While accountability is important, cruelty should not be tolerated.
Although we may not have always agreed with Mazari’s political stance, we admired her unwavering courage and determination. She chose to be a warrior rather than a damsel in distress.
Sadly, her farewell may be marked by yet another routine press conference, which has become disheartening and discouraging for women in politics.
The departure of fierce women like Shireen Mazari raises questions about the challenges faced by women in Pakistani politics and highlights the need for a more inclusive and supportive environment. It is crucial that we create space for diverse voices and ensure that women are empowered to participate actively and meaningfully in the political landscape.