NEW DELHI — Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali has a new fan following in Pakistan and other places.
A video in which the Malaysian prime minister’s wife asks visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan if she could hold his hand has been widely shared on social media.
“Sure,” a smiling Imran said in his response, prompting laughter from those present and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Many viewers considered that moment as the most pleasant highlight of Imran’s two-day visit last week.
Pakistani journalist Meher Bokhari called it the “cutest video ever”, noting Siti Hasmah’s “girlish excitement” and Imran’s “boyish assent” to the hand-holding request at a photo shoot.
Meher finds the occasion “so fresh in the conventional and methodical world of diplomacy and politics”.
One person on Twitter said: “I believe this simple yet elegant gesture is above all diplomacies.”
Hassan Choudary, who posted the video on his Twitter page, commented: “Ok now this is really cute. Malaysia’s First Lady asks Prime Minister Imran Khan if she can hold his hand while being photographed.”
The Pakistan prime minister tweeted at the end of his Malaysia visit: “I especially want to thank the gracious Mrs Mahathir Mohamad for the wonderful lunch she arranged for us.”
Imran’s cricketing career made him an international star, but politics is a rough field where his country expects him to deliver as well in the face of rising economic challenges.
Becoming the prime minister of the world’s second most populous Muslim country is seen as a huge achievement in itself.
Imran has been an ardent admirer of Tun Mahathir’s foreign policy and his economic management of Malaysia.
During a joint press conference with Tun Mahathir, he expressed the sentiments that he has held for Malaysia consistently for a long time.
“We look upon you as a statesman, someone who transformed his country. We have followed Malaysia’s progress, especially since you came to office. We want to learn from your experience,” Imran said.
Tun Mahathir was closely watched and admired for his statesmanship in Pakistan and most Muslim countries during his prime ministership from 1981 to 2003.
His return as premier after the 14th general election in May this year has generated similar public interest in his policies.
Tun Siti Hasmah has been a pillar of strength in her husband’s political journey.
They met at the former King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore in 1947 and got married in 1956.
The hand-holding video generates a different kind of publicity in which Tun Mahathir and his wife are being seen in a charming light by Malaysia watchers.
“From now on, I am going to follow her more closely,” said Istanbul-based academic Azize Boshnak.
Azize said she was able to relate to the prime minister’s wife from a Turkish cultural perspective as well.
“She looked very familiar to Turkish women who can also do such things comfortably because we have this comforting concept of brotherhood and sisterhood in our society. According to this, Tun Siti Hasmah is the ‘abla’ (elder sister in Turkish) who shows sympathy towards her younger brother.”