Officials appointed at the highest positions in this country always remain in the public eye, their actions are monitored and they are expected to be more responsible than everyone else in the system; and rightly so because they are setting precedents with their choices. Recently the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has been in the limelight for taking strict action against certain unlawful activities in the country and his actions have been supported and appreciated by several groups. As such, by inserting himself into these situations, the CJP has become a public figure in the true sense of the word, and hence must be mindful of his actions.

The group of women lawyers who released a statement to mark their protest against the recent remarks of the CJP – where he quoted British politician Winston Churchill and compared a “good speech” to “the length of a woman’s skirt” – were correct in pointing out the damage caused by the CPJ’s choice of words, in the legal community and outside. The quip by Churchill is very much a product of its time, to be used in discussion, but never in earnest as the CJP did. It was especially inappropriate given the recent raft of sexual assaults against minors and women. In a tense environment such as this, casual comments by high ranking government officials can have unintended consequences.

Be it Khawja Asif’s dreaming comments in the Parliament or Mustafa Kamal’s thoughtless words while giving a TV interview, the scrutiny of the language used by our leaders and officials is important. These people wield widespread influence and their attitudes shape the ones held by their followers.

Fortunately for the CJP, the same influence can be bought be bear for positive change as well – and just as easily. An earnest recognition of an inadvertent mistake and his future commitment to the cause of equality is all that is needed.