The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s resident loose cannon, the expressive Khawaja Asif, may have been pressured in apologising for his sexist remarks on the parliament floor, but he did not seem genuinely embarrassed at all. In fact, on a closer reading, his apology doesn’t read like an apology at all.

It is a non-apology that masquerades as one and he justifies his behaviour based on different reasons – it may contain the words “I apologise”, but it shifts the blame on the recipients of the apology. It reads, “It seems I have allowed some of my remarks and conduct to be determined by hacklers (sic) from across the aisle, which I regret”, callously pinning the blame for his own uncouth language on the opposition. There seems to be little humility or remorse in his language; he spends the bulk of his letter waxing lyrical about his own status as a long-standing member of the house. Though his words were clearly directed towards Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf MNA Shireen Mazari, he refused to name her in the apology, though he was asked to do so by the opposition. If he truly regretted his comments he should have named Ms Mazari, come to the session and gracefully ended the matter. If he had not been thinking with only his ego, he would have realised that a heartfelt apology would have lent him the respect of both voters and the opposition.

This is not the first time the Defence Minister has passed sexist remarks on the parliament floor; he has constantly belittled women for their appearance and undermined the authority of women elected on reserved seats. If he is this sexist in Parliament, one shudders to think of what he thinks of other issues, like women’s rights at home, or the Women’s Protection Bill, or the use of bullying and intimidation in politics.

Perhaps such rowdy routines are Mr Asif’s true calling. Whenever the PML-N is under pressure they unleash him, frothing at the mouth and the parliament’s attention is diverted towards his obscenities. The PML-N was being grilled for the fake figures in its budget; now the focus is on Mr Asif. It is a shame that our Defence Minister is not known for his acumen in matters related to defence – in fact he managed to scupper the F-16 deal with USA which had been a mainstay in Pak-US relations for decades. Instead he is known for his insult-based humour.

The parliament is no place for comedians and jesters, nor for bullies and body-shamers. Those who heckle and jeer, need to be whipped into line by party leaders. If they cannot respect their fellow legislators, they should at least respect their office and the reputation of the parliamentary halls.