Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed dismissed social media uproar over a comment he made during an earlier press conference as “just a joke that should be taken as such”, adding that he has been misquoted by social network users.
“My reference was to the word ‘Hamfield’, which is the Goldsmith residence where Imran Khan stays when he visits the United Kingdom,” Rasheed told Dawn.com. “Nowhere have I said ‘Middlesex University’.”
Rasheed further said he made the joke specifically against Khan because “he claims to be very religious”.
“I made the joke thinking about him, because if he claims to be so pious, how can he explain the [Hamfield] address to UK taxi drivers when he visits the country?” said Rasheed.
In a press conference held Sunday evening, Rasheed hit out at political rival Imran Khan when he said: “Take the name of that place… where your [Imran Khan’s] children are growing up. I will not take the name of that place…because if a Muslim says the word he will have to perform wuzu (ablution for cleansing) for even bringing it on his tongue.”
He added: “Ask Khan sb the name of that area, if he says the name of that area he will have to do wuzu.”
A short video clip of the press conference went viral on social media, with some Twitter users demanding the minister apologise for a comment made in “poor taste”. Rasheed also became the butt of trending hashtags, with #placespervaizrasheedcantnametaking the lead.
Twitterati weighed in on what other locations might terrify Rasheed so:
Today, in an attempt to clarify his statement, Rasheed said his statement was a joke aimed at Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, who often takes similar digs at the government.
“It was obviously a joke. The PTI says so many things about us, so I also said something as a joke,” he said.
“I was clearly referring to the Goldsmith house where Imran Khan stays when he visits, the same place where his children also grew up.”
“I made a joke. But people should relax. Things are sometimes said on a lighter note and people in our country should learn how to take it.”
Rasheed further said he made the joke specifically against Khan because “he claims to be very religious”. “I made the joke thinking about him, because if he claims to be so pious, how explain the [Hamfield] address to UK taxi drivers when he visits?”
The ambiguous "joke" centers on the word 'ham' in Hamfield, as Islam forbids Muslims from eating pork.
It is not clear whether the family of Jemima Goldsmith, Khan’s former wife, owns a home in Hamfield.
PTI and the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) have re-engaged in a bitter war of words since the Panama Papers named Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s children as owning offshore accounts.
Opposition parties are pressing for the premier to resign over the revelation, but PM Nawaz has maintained his innocence and called for the constitution of a judicial commission to probe any illegality.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Pervaiz Rasheed as having referred to Middlesex University in his press conference