Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif just delivered his Holi address in Karachi and his speech was impressive for its stress on the inclusion and protection of minorities in Pakistan.

From talking about his responsibilities as a leader towards Pakistan's minorities, he took the opportunity to also highlight his efforts to restore peace in Karachi.

His address took an awkward turn when he drew PML(N) leader Khialdas Kohistani into the conversation, asking him to confirm whether the Karachi law and order situation had improved. When he wholeheartedly agreed, PM Nawaz digressed into a minute-long public sermon about Kohistani's weight.

Addressing the audience, he first said, "Tell him to lose a little weight." The audience was quite amused.

"I'm saying this in his interest. I have a lot of love for him and I want him to be healthy," continued PM Nawaz.

"When he was giving his speech, he could barely breathe. [When I saw that,] I decided then that I'd tell him to lose weight. You may be called Kohistani but you don't look it."

PM Nawaz and PML(N) leader Khialdas Kohistani at the Holi address today — Screengrab
PM Nawaz and PML(N) leader Khialdas Kohistani at the Holi address today — Screengrab

Kohistani, who was taking PM Nawaz's remarks in his stride, quipped, "People say if I lose weight, [PM Nawaz] won't notice me anymore. They say you notice me because I'm fat."

Later in his address, PM Nawaz added, "I'll visit Kohistan. You go mountain climbing a little, and I'll go mountain climbing a little. When you become less breathless, I'll [start development] in Kohistan."

The friendly banter between PM Nawaz and Kohistani drew a lot of laughs from the audience, but still raises the question: Is there room for personal comments at political events?

PM Nawaz's jovial demeanour at his Holi address was a welcome departure from the stiff, formal style of most political addresses in Pakistan and his remarks about Kohistani's weight are likely to have been made with good intentions and were received well by the target himself. However, making personal comments during a political event is problematic because it blurs the boundaries between what is acceptable to say and what isn't. If PM Nawaz can call out a party leader for his weight, then it gives permission to other political leaders to make derogatory personal remarks about other people, who may not welcome the attack, however friendly.

The bottom line is this: No one's personal appearance is up for discussion or comment at a public forum.

Pakistani politics is rife with leaders making uncalled for remarks all the time, and it's best if the premier keeps the decorum.

Email