I got to know Hina Butt when she emerged as a pret wear designer in 2012. She was young, qualified, ambitious and practical. She comes across as a fiery individual, minding her business and wanting to make a difference in her field of work. Years later, she took up politics as a Member of Parliament for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and to this day, she is dedicated, involved and deeply engaged to the cause she’s taken up — wanting to make a difference in her country, to see it progress, to give women a voice, relieve the burdened class and see a modern Pakistan built on Islamic values and principles, the one Jinnah envisioned. Hina Butt is not a thumb that bends easily. She is confident, self-assured and comfortable in her skin and believes in herself. From being heavily trolled online and on social media, to being criticised for her strong stances, the MPA has braved all storms. We’ve seen her actively playing her role as a politician, keeping her dignity intact. Among the other things that I admire about her, it’s her distinct and unique style and fashion statements that sets her apart. I spoke to her a few days ago exclusively for Daily Times, where she poured her heart out to me, about stereotypes, trolling, her friendship and respect for Maryam Nawaz, her favourite female politician and an ever growing list of fans. She comes across as a fiery individual, minding her business and wanting to make a difference in her field of work. Years later, she took up politics as a Member of Parliament for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and to this day, she is dedicated, involved and deeply engaged to the cause she’s taken up — wanting to make a difference in her country, to see it progress, to give women a voice, relieve the burdened class and see a modern Pakistan built on Islamic values and principles, the one Jinnah envisioned “It is not really about style or stereotypes, if you ask me. There was indeed a perception for the longest time that politics needed a grey hair, at the very least. But with time, we saw that people in advanced countries tended more to vote for young, dynamic and energetic politicians whom they could identify with more easily. It’s not surprising, when you look at it, that this process as coincided with the population of young people, as a group, rising and old people diminishing in most parts of the world. And since politics is always a two-way street, younger politicians also find it much easier to adopt the same means of communication that most people in their constituencies use, which makes both campaigning and accountability much easier. In my case, since the biggest vote bank comprises people close to my own age group, it is no surprise that we have the same kinds of online presence and use the same platforms. It also helps, then, that my mission has been to table bills and legislation, which is the very spirit of representative government, and I can communicate it instantly with my followers on social media; something that the older politicians are not used to and in some cases are not even capable of. And I guess it’s just a pleasant coincidence that all this brings an element of glamour with it, which younger people tend to appreciate more,” she tells me. As well all know, the current political climate is dominated by vicious trolling and personal attacks. Female politicians – including Hina, Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Sherry Rehman among others – have recently been on the receiving end of these vile attacks. But one wonders what Hina’s approach is to dealing with this phenomenon. “There are two sides to every picture, of course and while social media has enabled dissemination of a lot of information and subsequently a lot of positive feedback, it is also increasingly used for vicious personal attacks to undermine politicians that dare question the status quo. And, again, it’s no surprise that ladies are predominantly at the receiving end of such abuse, because they are traditionally considered vulnerable even when they lead the forces of change that benefit society as a whole. The key is to see if they attack policy matters or personal behaviour, outlook, etc. Because as long as political discourse is about policies and their impact on the people, there’s always a positive feedback loop. But whenever they tend to circulate around personal attributes of people, like how they look or the clothes they wear, then you can be certain that those people have been defeated when it comes to the crucial argument about which direction popular policy should take. Everybody made such a fuss very recently about the bag I had and the shoes I wore to a protest about prices recently. But all I had to do was point out that such behaviour, when such trolls make personal attacks, is indeed acceptance of complete failure when it comes to policy, they backed down in a hurry. Perhaps I should also have mentioned that I bought those accessories during the PML-N era, when the rupee was stronger, imports more affordable and the economy much more balanced; but that too would have been more personal than political and I did not want to repay their silly attacks in kind,” she says. Among the other things that I admire about her, it’s her distinct and unique style and fashion statements that sets her apart. I spoke to her a few days ago exclusively for Daily Times, where she poured her heart out to me, about stereotypes, trolling, her friendship and respect for Maryam Nawaz, her favourite female politician and an ever growing list of fans Hina says for the past few years, she’s been very impressed with the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, not just for her empathy and compassion, but also the courage of her conviction, which is possibly the most important thing in politics. “Here’s a lady who stood her country’s entire political establishment on its head at such a young age and delivered at every important point. And the proof of the pudding is always in its eating. That’s why it’s no surprise that not only her own people like her so much, but practically the whole world loves her politics,” she explains. In recent years, PML-N has had a dynamic representation of female leaders. I ask Hina how important inclusivity is within the party ranks and if she thinks other parties are doing enough to improve that. “It’s not just one party in this one country. This is the trend wherever progressive politics is being practiced anywhere in the world. For, wherever you look you’ll see either female politicians or young people, and often enough both at the same time, coming to the forefront in ever larger numbers. PML-N stands out because it has always had its hand on the pulse of the people. It is now the party with the largest representation of young, female politicians and therefore it is not surprising at all that now that the dust from this ongoing political experiment in this country is settling, it is PML-N that people are rallying around once again. I’m pretty confident that the next electoral cycle will see a lot of these young, female politicians given the duty to deliver on the public mandate after being elected to political office,” she replies. Of late, Hina was the victim of heavy trolling after she protested against price hike. She sported a lovely Chanel bag and people criticised her for being able to afford luxury items and at the same time, protesting against inflation. I asked Hina what some of her favourite luxury apparel brands are to which she sarcastically says “Well, let’s just say that my top three favourite brands are Chanel, Chanel and Chanel. You can say it’s about brand loyalty. But the fact is that brands grow on you, just as you grow on them. And since these days, big brands cater to such a large range of accessories, if one is on the top of your list in all categories, then it is truly your favourite. And my favourite is Chanel, Chanel and Chanel,” with a laugh. Given the media projection Hina attracts owing to her strong beliefs and stances, her appearances on TV talkshows, her massive following on social media and the style statements she so often makes, she often gets recognised on the streets. “Yes, that’s a fact of life in the modern era and I feel humbled and privileged that people hold me in high regard. So when I’m at a restaurant or in a rally and someone comes up and asks for a picture, I’m only too happy to oblige. It must be said, though, that once one is so forthcoming, then the people also carry a burden of responsibility. It is up to them to be responsible and honourable in their own rights, which is very important also,” she says. Hina is approachable, down to Earth, a fast learner and a dreamer. What she’s not is gullible, shallow, a taker of short cuts or proud — the attributes people mistake every female politician of having.