Not a woman’s place

When I listened to Malala Yousufzai address the Canadian Parliament the previous day, I  felt nothing but respect for that girl. No, that woman. The way a nineteen year old woman could command the respect of the entire house, conservative and liberal was mesmerizing. I wished she spoke longer, I could listen for a long time perhaps with a Nazia Hassan tune playing in the background. She said she wanted to see more young ones sitting in the house of Parliament instead of many sitting there now, such was her appeal that even the oldest parliamentarians found themselves to be nodding.

I was quickly brought back to reality, the reality of pessimism and anger. My country folks don’t really let such moments pass easy, you see most people can’t tolerate strong independent women. There was a woman being honored by a house of parliament and yet she stood their telling them that they have not done enough to support a girl’s education across the globe, she told them that they need to do more. It pained me to watch so many of my own people accuse her for working on an ‘evil foreign’ agenda, obviously a girl’s right of education can only be something evil for the patriarchy.

1983 – Women’s Movement to protest against laws passed by military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq

Society on this side of the world, both sides of the border have internalized misogyny. It comes easy for them, they all feel threatened by a woman who can speak, who has her own voice. Be it the Fatima Jinnah daring to stand up to the dictator Ayub, standing up for the rights of the Bengali people or even the Sharmeen at the Academy Awards wanting to protect millions of other women from ending up like the girl in the river. Every female politician in this country has had to bear with misogynistic remarks, has had to face attacks such as not being fit to rule because of course she is a woman. Ms Bhutto paid with her life after all. Don’t take me in the wrong sense, I do not mean to say that women can not rise above all of this or that they haven’t been able to ever, but we need to understand the fact that just because that they do, does not mean that the problem does not exist. When a sitting Defence Minister can refer to a woman as a ‘tractor trolley’ to shut her up, to silence her voice, or when the leader of the opposition can crack a joke at the expense of women in a ‘light mood’, because it’s annoying when women speak, it’s obviously business only when men speak, It does help in bringing me back to this harsh reality.

For as long as Asma Jehangir’s refusal to compromise on principles means being ‘uptight’, for as long as Malala is just another foreign agent along with her partner in crime Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, as long as parents continue to stop their daughters from going out for an education, even in urban centres, and people continue to turn a blind eye we can not hope to progress. This battle is not and was not one to be fought alone by Ms Jinnah, Mehtab Rashdi or Nazia Hassan trying to break cultural norms, this is not just ‘a women problem’, this is a moral problem and we all must be a part of this movement, to break the patriarchy and to call out misogyny.

 

The iconic Dupatta burning protest by Pakistani Feminists in 1983 against the military dictator Zia, this later became a symbol for resistance and freedom

 

Our Flawed Perception of Democracy

One of Pakistan’s favorite past time is to sit in drawing rooms, sip tea and discuss politics. Many discuss how Imran Khan going towards his political doom by making unreasonable demands and holding protests which may not take him anywhere, some believe that Imran is taking Pakistan towards a revolution and how tomorrow when they switch the TV on, they will suddenly be living in a Utopian Pakistan where everything is Perfect, some critically oppose Imran and claim that democracy is being hurt and that Prime Minister Nawaz should continue to rule so that democracy lives.

While picking sides on who is right and who is wrong, we many times forget our own side, we forget the side of our own Pakistanis, we forget that democracy is there because of us and not the other way around. We become blind by in our quest to topple the government and live in Utopia the next day, we become cold blooded in our desire to save the Parliament and Government which we like to define as ‘democracy’. In this battle of “Revolution” vs “Democracy” we fail to understand its purpose, we only keep our eyes on the battle waiting for the victor and hope it is the side we support.

Most people in Pakistan agree to the fact that there was massive rigging in the 2013 General Elections, however many choose to accept it for the sake of stability, many term it as ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ and very few are enraged by this rigging. So what “democracy” do we stand by? What is our perception of “Democracy”? What is Democracy if “We the people” don’t decide who rules our country? What’s the difference between democracy and Monarchy when rulers are forced upon us by fake ballots simply under the banner of democracy? What is the purpose of democracy if not to ensure basic human rights for the common man? Where was democracy’s justice when people are killed and assaulted by the state? What’s democracy if critical media channels are shut down by force secretly to control the flow of information to the common man? Is this the democracy we defend? Is this the democracy we champion? It is not democracy which is flawed but it is our perception of democracy which flawed which has led to all the injustices in our country go unpunished. We see the battle in Islamabad as merely a battle between the state and opposition and a battle for the throne, we must not let it turn into a battle for the throne, we must acknowledge the importance of fair ballot. How can we trust those who cheated our right to vote that they will make sure that doesn’t happen in the future? How can we trust the very people who cheated us to protect us from being cheated again?

I was not old enough to vote in the 2013 General Elections, but i will be in the next elections, i certainly don’t want my vote being changed or disregarded, my vote may be different to that of the majority and may have no effect on the result but it will be mine, it is my right to choose and no one has the right to make that decision for me. I hope no Pakistani would want their vote to be changed or unfairly cast. That’s whats this battle is about, so that in the future my vote or anyone else’s is not cheated. No one wants to go down to the polling station and find the entrances sealed and guarded by armed men and fake ballots being cast inside. Regardless of where our allegiances lie, we should not stand by our vote being robbed even if the result remains unchanged. In our opposition to one side we forget where we stand and go all in to eliminate the opponent forgetting our own principles.

Whatever we may expect from this alleged “Inqilaab”¬† (Revolution), may not be realistic but we can hope that maybe tomorrow, our ballot will have some actual power, maybe tomorrow, there will be a sense of accountability within this system maybe tomorrow will be the first step towards a brighter future.

Pakistan… A Democracy

Sometimes, I start wondering that if there was no corruption in Pakistan then Pakistan would prosper, but then at times I start to think that all Pakistan need is a good leader. I keep my hopes up and praying that someday our leaders will see the light and do the right thing. It is times like these when i tend to lose hope, I have acknowledged this for quite a long time now that the Balouchis haven’t been given any rights at all in any time in the history of Pakistan, they have never been let to step forward or considered an important part of Pakistan. I think we have started treating them the way we treated our Bengali brothers and i fear that someday we might lose Balochistan as well. Our leader don’t happen to give a damn about the people in Balochistan, actually our leaders don’t really give a damn about anyone but themselves. Recently there were 102 killings in Quetta because of terrorist activities that was due to lack of security and genuine concern. Even after this incident the people who died weren’t given any protection or right, they were forced to protest, the refused to bury their loved ones until they were given rights, they stood alongside the dead bodies of their loved ones for 3 days so far in the freezing cold, yet there was no response by the incompetent provisional government, and now the federal government had to do something about, because they were forced to and not because they wanted to. Yet it took 3 days of protest for the Prime-Minister to reach Quetta and all he’s done so far is just grant a 10 lac rupees to the families of the martyrs. This incompetent and inhumane government fails to understand that these people don’t want money, they want right! They want what they truly deserve, money isn’t going to bring their loved ones back. They want proper rights so that no one ever dies like those people ever again.

I stand alongside those people and demand the inhumane government to do something about it, I request the United Nations to do something about it. People dying is not a joke (well at least not for me it isn’t) and this inhumane government needs to go. The people in the government are not only corrupt and dishonest but they also have no sense of humanity. Those people are not only fighting for the 102 lives lost in Quetta but they are fighting for the millions of lives lost in Pakistan every year for no reason at all. If democracy means bloodshed and terror and no one there to give a damn about it then in that case, I curse this democracy and I say NO to this kind of democracy, Pakistan and the people of Pakistan deserve and know better than this.