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HomeGo To PakistanPakistanis stand by minister Marriyum Aurangzeb after London hecklers call her ‘thief’

Pakistanis stand by minister Marriyum Aurangzeb after London hecklers call her ‘thief’

Fellow ministers, journalists and even Benazir Bhutto’s daughter Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari came out in support of Aurangzeb.

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Visits to other countries are proving to be a trial for Pakistani ministers who are often met with protests. On Monday, Pakistan’s minister of Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb was harassed and heckled at a London coffee shop by supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the party helmed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Political scientist Ayesha Siddiqa, while speaking to ThePrint, points to the laxity of the UK government in curtailing such incidents, which would otherwise warrant immediate—and often harsh—punishment in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

On a more macro-level, social activist Farhan Khan Virk, who is affiliated with PTI, blames social media and an ever-growing dependence on algorithms that can be manipulated to fuel unrest.

A viral video of the Monday incident shows a rather composed Aurangzeb purchasing and then sipping her drink while being bombarded by overseas Pakistani protesters who eventually followed her out onto the street shouting “chorni, chorni (thief, thief).” A heckler can also be heard accusing the minister of “making grand claims on television ‘there’ but ‘here’ she does not wear a dupatta on her head.”

The Pakistani minister is in London as part of Shehbaz Sharif’s delegation to the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

As startling and uncalled for as it was, Aurangzeb appears remarkably poised throughout. In another video shared by Pakistani journalist Ihtisham Ul Haq, she can be seen answering all questions—gently, but firmly.

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‘Violent and vicious’

Ayesha Siddiqa says such incidents tend to occur in the UK due to authorities not taking action “unless there is actual physical violence.”

She went on to say that it is this atmosphere that permits “violent and vicious” actions of the PTI and that they “benefit from the relaxation in laws and feel encouraged by this.”

In April, then newly-appointed PM Shehbaz Sharif was heckled on a visit to Saudi Arabia. Protesters were once again seen chanting “chor, chor.” Yet, the result was drastically different as five people were arrested for ‘insulting’ Sharif’s delegation.

“People are willing to go to any extreme to get views regardless of their political party affiliation, which is condemnable and should be stopped,” Virk told ThePrint.

The Pakistan Muslim League leader, was the recipient of a wave of support. People pointed out the shocking nature of such harassment while reprimanding the PTI for fostering “politics of hate and divisiveness.” This included fellow ministers, noted journalists, and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, daughter of the late Benazir Bhutto.

“For anyone with a basic IQ – It is a huge matter of pride to not be an Imran Khan supporter,” Bhutto proclaimed on Twitter.

Noted Pakistani journalist Shiffa Z. Yousafzai also came out in the minister’s support. “Not okay at all. @Marriyum_A stay strong – everyone has a right to protest but this cannot be called protesting – This is outright harassment,” she wrote.

In a wily political manoeuvre, Aurangzeb clapped back on social media, highlighting her patience in dealing with unruly protesters and the sad realities of those taken in by PTI’s “toxic politics.”


Farhan Khan Virk commented on the nature of digital media giants, saying that “they are pushing masses towards extreme polarization.”

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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