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The Mercurial Rise Of Maryam Nawaz

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After the unfortunate demise of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s political stage witnessed an unspoken emptiness. BB Shaheed was not only a flagbearer of democracy but also a representative of the women of Pakistan.

We cannot deny the fact that only women from significant family backgrounds have been able to make it to the top in Pakistani politics. Yet, we also cannot ignore the other fact that their path to the top was anything but easy. From Fatima Jinnah to Benazir Bhutto, all of them had to fight patriarchy and misogyny.

Maryam Nawaz’s sudden rise to prominence raised many eyebrows. Her newfound position in the national political sphere has alarmed everyone, both inside and outside PML-N.

Maryam is not just a pretty face or daughter of Nawaz Sharif. She is a 45-year-old woman, holding an MA in Literature from Punjab University. Before entering politics, she handled her family’s philanthropic work and remained the face of Sharif Trust for many years.

Maryam entered active politics in 2011 when she started organizing PML-N’s social media teams. In 2013, she became in-charge of her father’s election campaign in NA-120 (now NA-125), Lahore. For the next few years, she remained low key until her name appeared in Panama Papers, and all hell broke loose.

In 2017, she was among the BBC’s 100 Women, and by the end of the same year got featured on The New York Times’ 11 Powerful Women Around the World.

Maryam Nawaz indeed has a power and an identity of her own.

She’s not the first female politician facing character assassination. The only difference is that this time we will also have the keyboard warriors trying to bring her down.

Maryam has been maligned for her marriage with Captain Safdar in the most brutal of manners. Even her children were not spared. Ruling party supporters made sure everyone got to know how Pakistan treated its women, nationally and internationally.

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As a nation, our understanding of private and family affairs is almost zero. Hence, our youth and not-so-youth decided to dig Maryam’s pictures from her daughter’s wedding and ridiculed her for her dress. They went as far as calling her “buddhi ghorri laal lagaam”, meaning that a woman after certain age should not be wearing red.

Socially, we are accustomed to age-shaming and have normalised it in our daily lives. Often I hear people using the word “Aunty” as an insult.

Twitter trolls shamelessly initiated a trend against Maryam, calling her Naani, meaning grandmother. But why is it used as a slur? How on earth is being Naani to your grandchildren a problem?

And how can we forget that the person who initiated this trend was also a woman, Veena Malik? Following in Veena’s footsteps, Twitter trolls initiated many other embarrassing hash-tags on Pakistani Twitter.

Did all this character assassination and age-shaming push Maryam Nawaz back? Did it break her spirit? The answer is a big NO!

This is not the first time a woman in Pakistani politics has risen to fight for her father – history might not be repeating itself but it is definitely preparing some lessons for Maryam Nawaz.

PML-N’s press conference on Saturday led by Maryam Nawaz Sharif displayed the authority she now enjoys in the party. Through her poised and charismatic demeanor, Maryam has proven everyone wrong and brought herself to the front stage of Pakistan’s political opposition.

Whatever our differences with her politics, we as a nation should welcome Maryam Nawaz and wish her all the strength and courage against male-dominated politics of Pakistan.

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“May the force be with you, woman!”

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