PML-N vice-president in interview: 'I had to struggle within PML-N to be accepted & make my place'

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz, in an all-encompassing interview aired on Thursday, shared that she has had to struggle within her own party in order to be accepted and make her place.

In an exclusive interview with journalist Iram Abbasi for Voice of America Urdu, the PML-N vice president and daughter of party supremo Nawaz Sharif said that in every society, whether eastern or western, a varying degree of misogynistic mindsets exists.

She was of the opinion that women who were in the limelight or in the public eye, particularly in leading roles, faced harsher criticism than their male counterparts.

“The criticism is more scathing, [such women] are judged more harshly.

“If a woman has formed ideals, principles, ideologies, convictions, values and wants to carve a niche for herself, it will always be viewed with a little suspicion.”

She said such women are sometimes viewed as “negatively ambitious”.

“[We need to] shift away focus from things such as clothes, shoes, appearances and physical attributes, and bring attention to her competence and her performance.”

She revealed that she had to deal with this challenge within her party as well.

“This is a very hard thing [to do] and I needed to do it within my party as well because my party PML-N is historically, traditionally and intrinsically male-dominated.

“In order to be accepted in the party, I had to give a lot of sacrifices. I had to work harder than the average man.”

Maryam said that she had gone to jail for three months where she had washed dishes, clothes, eaten rat food and slept on a charpai.

“I have no regrets about this. They say that prisons are the best training schools, I have been trained very well.”

The PML-N leader said that she had been strengthened by the experience.

Maryam said that despite the resistance she may have seen in her party, she never saw any gender discrimination in the response from the people of Pakistan.

“I was very pleasantly surprised.”

Maryam shared her experience at a recent rally in Mandi Bahuddin, where she was given a rousing welcome by a large number of party workers. Multiple receptions at different points on the way had delayed her convoy’s arrival in Mandi Bahauddin.

“I came out of the car, I had to respond to the unprecedented warmth and affection [of the people],” she said, adding that people had asked her why she was exposing herself to danger.

“[In] those 13-hour rallies there is one thing, the love and support of the people, that keeps you going.”

Protest rallies

She said that for now, her game plan was to address protest rallies, which were “not just for the release of her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, but also for the rule of law, for the supremacy of the Constitution, for the respect of the election process as well as against the restrictions on the media and for the average person”.

“As things change, I will evolve my strategy,” she added.

“I don’t have any personal ambition that I can measure success and failure in — I have a struggle.

“The path that I have chosen is the difficult path and I have paid a big price for it in the past three years.”

Maryam said that over the past few years she had faced numerous challenges — the Dawn Leaks and Panama Leaks had involved her, the National Accountability Court (NAB) had sentenced her after which she went to jail for three months during which her mother Kulsoom Nawaz passed away, her father is currently in jail and the PML-N had also faced difficulties.

“This path is very difficult but as Maryam Nawaz what is important to me is that I am standing on the right side of history.”

‘Web of lies’

While discussing the recent video scandal involving accountability judge Arshad Malik, Maryam said that the judge, who had sentenced Nawaz [in the Al Azizia reference], was himself saying that he had been blackmailed.

“He is not only saying it, but he is explaining, how he was shown a personal video of an obscene nature and blackmailed into punishing Nawaz Sharif, you know with this obscene video of his.

“But we can’t look at this in isolation because this is an entire web of lies and a series of events that has culminated into the decision.”

She said that the hearings over the course of six to eight months, of which she appeared in 120 times, presided over by “carefully chosen judges” were “completely lopsided”.

“These judges were picked up and the entire game plan was executed.”

Maryam regretted that “some media elements” were also involved in this.

In response to a question about whether she was holding back in providing evidence, Maryam said: “I am not holding back, I am just acting very responsibly”.

She said that she was ready to take a bullet for her father but she was also a Pakistani and her purpose was not to fight against the country’s institutions.

“My purpose is that there be rule of law in Pakistan [and that the] democratic principles in Pakistan be strengthened.”

Civil-military imbalance

In response to Abbasi’s question regarding “civil-military imbalance”, Maryam said: “The imbalance shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

“The Constitution has clearly outlined and defined the roles, domain and authority for every institution.

“If there is an attempt to forcefully tilt the balance in one direction through power and might, it will not create an imbalance, it will be a disaster, which is what we are seeing now.”

She said that in the history of Pakistan, democracy has remained suspended, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly.

“Democracy has never been allowed to truly take root in Pakistan.”

The PML-N vice president said that any country that is politically unstable cannot progress.

“In 2019, what we are seeing after the 2018 election, is not a dictatorship or a military take over but we are seeing its remnants, we are seeing its vestiges in the form of the ‘selected’ prime minister.”

‘Selected’ prime minister

Maryam questioned why Prime Minister Imran Khan was scared of the term ‘selected’ prime minister.

“The people of Pakistan did not elect him and I am not the only one saying this, the whole world saw it.

“Why does he dislike the word so much? It means it’s the truth.

“[We] only fear the truth, no one fears a lie,” she said, adding that a lot of lies had been said about her.

She asked why the word ‘selected’ had been banned in the parliament: “If you aren’t selected, what issue do you have?”

According to Maryam, the premier was “selected, not elected”.

She said that Prime Minister Imran had been ‘selected’ in three stages: the pre-election stage, poll day rigging and post-poll rigging, which she claimed was still ongoing.

“The post-poll rigging is still ongoing through which anyone who speaks about ‘their’ historical failures, incompetence and ineligibility is silenced.”

‘Civilian martial law’

Maryam said that even in the past, moves such as the recent bans on interviews of political leaders, including herself and former president Asif Ali Zardari, did not take place.

“This is the first government where [we] have a democratic facade […] a civilian martial law.”

“Freedom of expression is being suspended through an unannounced ban, not just on me but on every opponent.

She said that the “civilian martial law” was the worst form of martial law.