'News and Views of a Frustrated Editor and His Featured Guests '
On February 12, it was an historic and eventful day in the history of Pakistani women and its observed as “National Women Day” in my country to mark the catastrophic events that took place on 12 February 1983.
This was when we Pakistani women were dismissed as nonentities within the country and under special assistance of so called democratic foreign powers that colluded towards the devastating long term effects on us, events of and around 12 February will never be forgotten by any Pakistani women in her life time.
It was on 12 Febuary 1983 when some 100 Pakistani women activists took out a rally in defiance and against Gen Ziaul Haq’s religio-military dictatorship in the city of Lahore. The women activists defied the military order against public gatherings, to protest Gen. Zia’s anti women laws that upheld the testimony of a male as equal to that of two females in a court of law. Lest we forget, the Law of Evidence was among a series of laws that Gen. Zia imposed in the name of Islam.
All this was done with the supreme model of democratic ally USA, because with this partnership General Zia needed to appear devout Muslim in order to prove his credibility to lead the “nefarious jihad” in Afghanistan. For Washington has propped up Gen. Zia in order to counter the Russians in Afghanistan. Their strategy of turning the Afghan’s war of national liberation into an Islamic jihad or holy war against the “God-less Communists” made Pakistan the front liner state in this nefarious and horrifying war that is still going on in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Today is it not funny to hear ignorant westerners having the gall to inform that my country is a primitive piece of joke, as western hands are also partly instrumental in shaping today’s Pakistan as it is, appalling for women.
Another law imposed by the the military dictator was the Hudood Ordinance, including the Zina (adultery) law that made sex outside marriage a criminal offence, and rape a private offence. So a woman who had been raped had to prove her innocence or be accused of adultery. (Face palming). Now these Wahabi-inspired ideology and legal system that Gen. Zia introduced resulted into sky rocketing number of women inside prisons and these were mainly on girls and women. Some women were whipped, however the higher courts over turned all the sentences of stoning to death that some lower courts prescribed, but Taliban who back then were the “mujahedeen” army of God didn’t prescribe to this and continued to demand their version of Sharia imposition on Afghanistan and Pakistan. That includes stoning and flogging women to death in public, which are in reality Middle Eastern barbaric customs imported forcefully on the South Asian soil.
This battle is far from over today, this is the battle that angers my heart beyond words can describe. I cannot sit and do nothing. And this exactly how the women rights activists felt back then, a group including famous lawyersAsma Jahangir, Shehla Zia and other forwarded a petition to the Lahore High Court Chief Justice as a protest against the discriminatory laws. And then defying military ordinance, 100 of them stepped on the roads, flanked and supported by Habib Jalib, a veterinary Pakistani revolutionary poet, left-wing activist politician who opposed martial law and state oppression. They were attacked by the police with batons and many were beaten including Habib Jalib who perhaps was being given a lesson for his never ending support to women rights cause and Pakistani feminism.
That day women were beaten, and mass arrests took place. But the message since then has remained the same that we the Pakistani women will continue our struggle for rights as equal citizens, and for a society upholds, in theory and practice, its obligations to all citizens.
Today the military dictator who started this has long gone, but the evil forces he unleashed and nurtured have turned into a never ending nightmare for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Others carried on his work including Gen Musharaf etc who stayed silent as the multiplication of actors including the dangerous Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda and so on.
Today, it is far more important for human rights concerns to separate religion from the state, completely and effectively. For in the name of Islam, these groups attack unarmed civilians particularly women and children, desecrated graves, beheaded innocents and in past two decades undergone expansion of their theatrical war to attack and threaten girls schools and polio campaign in Pakistan.
This is simply not a version of Islam we can accept at any cost and we refuse to surrender by being bullying in name of religion.
We, the Pakistani women resolve to condemn all atrocities of religious extremism, of traditional discrimination against women and minorities, and of all hegemonic forces of women’s oppression.
As we have celebrated Pakistani Women Day, and annually renew our pledge for winning this fight, not just for the sake of Pakistani girls and women, but for our rightful place in the society and world peace order.