Rape and Speech


*Originally published in The Daily Times.

Rape.  A word whose four letters fail in doing justice to the gravity and intensity of the monstrosity that violates the physical, psychological, emotional, mental and sexual being of an individual for a lifetime.

However, in recent years, the appropriation of the word ‘rape’ as an adjective has taken on the form of commonality with widespread usage being quick to follow on both the internet and everyday conversations.

In line with the inevitable, the transformation of something into a commonality often renders the need to halt and understand its meaning, significance and implications nugatory; because they have been so easily accommodated into the linguistic or social culture that their true recognition escapes from our mental sight.

Similar has been the case with rape which is seen to be inserted in conversations to ‘lighten’ them up or convey the unfavourable intensity of a happening, especially by the youth of both sexes.

However, using rape as an adjective in supposed humour is nothing less than an acceptance and approval for rape itself; for what is being thrown into process by this practice is the effective normalization of the inhumanity of rape through its trivialization.

Using rape to describe the humiliating defeat of a sports team; to convey the extent of an exam paper gone bad have been heard or seen once by most, if not often.

By reducing an act as vicious, as cruel, as fiendish as rape to a source or adjective of amusement; its true nature and character is consigned to trivialization. It then appears to be an occurrence minor enough to be employed as a comical instrument.

Nadir Hasan, in his article titled ‘Rape and Rhetoric’ published in the Express Tribune on 23RD December 2010, wrote:

‘Whether through moral blindness, callowness or unfamiliarity with the issue, by treating rape as a provocation rather than an act of aggression we allow this attitude to diffuse throughout society. Think of how many times you have used rape as a punchline to a joke that nobody should laugh at, but too many do….One such joke may seem harmless but collectively they contribute to make rape seem like something less than a violent crime.’

With an Indonesian judge remarking that women may actually enjoy rape and a Microsoft employee making a rape joke at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), it is understood that this problem does not limit itself to Pakistan. However, this linguistic trivialization of rape is part of the wider rape culture and culture of violence terribly prevalent in places like Pakistan. It is an element of the rape culture that, as Nadir Hasan stated and asks to be reiterated, ‘treats rape as a provocation rather than an act of aggression’; that seeks to place the blame of the crime upon the victim instead of the perpetrator; that seeks not to stop rape but stop people from being raped; that seeks possible causes for the barbarity in order to explain it as an act that was reactive or unavoidable; in order to refuse its whole-hearted acknowledgement as a barbarity.

Rebecca Edwards, a rape survivor herself, wrote in her piece titled ‘The Funny Thing About Rape Jokes’:

[Upon hearing a rape joke or rape being used to describe something] ‘I am reminded of how my rapist laughed when he was finished with me.’

So the next time you think of or hear someone throwing around rape as an adjective and in petty humor, think of and remind them of 5-year old Sumbul who was brutally raped several times last year in Lahore and India’s Jyoti Singh, who succumbed to the savagery.

Think of the 10,703 raped in the past five years in Pakistan.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 5:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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Postcards from Lahore to Cannes Film Festival


*First posted on Express Tribune Blogs.

“Lahore. The second largest city in Pakistan; the fifth largest city in South Asia and the twenty-sixth largest city in the world but more than that though, this is the place of my parents’ birth and the place they now live in. I lived only once, as a 7-year old, now at the age of 24, I’ve finally got another chance to visit the place of my origins, and recreate the early mementos of my childhood trip: my postcards from Lahore”.

And so begins British-Asian and London-based filmmaker and comedian Aatif Nawaz’s short film ’Postcards from Lahore’ that has come to be the only Pakistani film to be shown at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival 2013.

198104_181968785276253_1559320097_nNarrated by Aatif himself, ‘Postcards from Lahore’ centers not just around a young man traveling 7,000 miles back to his hometown after 17 years to recreate his memories but revisits every shade of color that comes together to make the vibrant composition that is Lahore: be it its rich historical and cultural heritage whose grandeur is redrawn vividly through the anecdotes of 86-year-old Jameel, one of Lahore Fort’s tour guides; a slice of its streets; the warmth of its people; their love for sports and of course, good food!

Aatif’s comedian wit is often heard in his candid commentary as he tours around Lahore, from the city’s fringes to its modern constructional erections that are the numerous shopping malls and plazas.

The documentary also includes tidbits about how the security situation in Pakistan has affected the city and how it is much lamented.

His experience of exploring Lahore and trying to rebond with his roots in ‘Postcards from Lahore’, in Aatif’s own words is “a foreigner’s love-letter to the city of his origins”.

And it truly is a love-letter that exhibit’s every feature of beauty of the beloved city that is the throbbing heart of the country: it’s life, diversity, past, people and culture.

The film was screened at the 2012 Raindance Film Festival, the Pakistani High Commission in the UK and was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Film Festival 2012 among several other honoaray mentions and awards at the festival circuit.

We’re proud of Aatif and congratulate him for the documentary’s success!

‘Postcards from Lahore’ on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PostcardsFromLahore

Aatif Nawaz can also be followed on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AatifNawaz

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Pakistan Hit by Fever of Turkey’s Popular Cultural Export


*Originally published in Turkey Tribune.

It is 9pm in Pakistan. An estimated thousands sit intently to watch what will unfold in a mansion scenically facing a shore of the Bosphorus, and in lives of the people who dwell in it. A handsome, philandering blonde, his sturdy uncle’s young gorgeous wife, her conniving mother and the mansion’s elegant governess. Characters that have eased into a part of their own lives.

These Pakistanis sit in anticipation of what will unfold in the Ziyagil Mansion. And so was the routine for them since months, until ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ ended last December.

What began as a venture by a new channel last year eventually evolved into a nation-wide mania of ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ (Urdu for ‘Aşk-ı Memnu‘).

ishqe-mamnu

The first of its kind in the country, the UAE-based channel Urdu1 became available in Pakistan in June 2012 by broadcasting two foreign TV dramas dubbed immaculately in Urdu, one Spanish and the other Turkish.The latter’s fresh storyline, cast and their convincing performances set in the ambience of Turkish culture and the picturesque locales of Istanbul, within a matter of months ensconced itself in a large Pakistani urban audience. 

A diverse audience composed by people belonging to both sexes of all ages, occupations, backgrounds, stripes and walks of life. And Toygar Işiklı’s masterly music production only augmented its appeal for them.

During its run on TV, it was not an uncommon sight to see many Pakistanis jestingly meeting each other in the Turkish style of greeting with a peck on each cheek, the two genders swooning over Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, Beren Saat and Hazal Kaya and women raving about Firdevs Yöreoglu’s and her daughters’ fashion. Hearing ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’s theme music as ringtones and heated discussions on the drama, with the obligatory dental clicking for poor Adnan Ziyagil, in various cafes, lounges, restaurants was an even more ordinary scene.

It was, literally, the talk of the town.

tumblr_m76wxbXjHx1r6nm6ao1_500fsdfConsidering Pakistan’s long-standing cultural, historical, bilateral and exceptional brotherly relations with Turkey, Pakistani interest in the Turkish state and nation is rather natural. Turkey frequently occupies a place in Pakistan’s political discourse; as an ideal political model. Recently, amid the fluttering of Pakistani and Turkish flags all over Lahore and much fanfare and excitement, the provincial government of Punjab inaugrated Pakistan’s first Metro Bus service in the city modeled on the Turkish system of this public transportation. It was also attended by the deputy prime minister of Turkey.

Add to this, the creation of frenzy owed to ‘Aşk-ı Memnu‘ . The massive following of the drama furthered the fascination with Turkey, its people, language and culture. Inevitably causing a shift in people’s travel preferences, wanderlust towards it and a surge in plans for Turkish vacations. It would come as no surprise, if soon Turkish tourism is compelled to welcome eager and swelling Pakistani throngs.

Televised the entire week, ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ propelled the remarkable skyrocketed ratings for the channel, blurring behind well-established rival entertainment channels. This disconcertedness forced them to jointly file a petition in court against the Urdu1. While equally upset were and still are the numerous local producers and veteran drama actors and actresses, openly clamoring for protectionism for the entertainment and drama industry in Pakistan, with direct reference to ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ whose sensational rise has posed a threat to them and their own soaps and TV shows.

50bf1c73654cf-Untitled-2In contrast to this, one notable veteran Adnan Siddiqui, who also played a role alongside Angelina Jolie in the film ‘A Mighty Heart’ , had a different approach and reaction.  Succinctly writing a note on ’Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ which acknowledged it’s attributes, he called on the Pakistani entertainment industry to accept it (the Turkish soap) as ’a production which is a learning mechanism to provide our industry with better quality for work’ and to learn from its causes of swift success to espouse professionalism and up their standards in conformity with international ones.

Presenting and dealing with subjects ranging from alcohol consumption, adultery to abortion under its themes of glamour, deception and betrayal, it came as surprise that it stirred no significant controversy involving conservative groups in Pakistan.

Ask-i-Memnu-Bihter-Behlul-bihter-and-behlul-19813315-766-690The slashing of steamier scenes in ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ under the scanner and sword of censorship paved the way for its social and cultural acceptance but generally, the soap fuelled attraction and greater want for Turkish TV dramas in Pakistan.

The sudden popularity of actors Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and Beren Saat in Pakistan along with the striking success of ‘Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ has led to many other entertainment channels following the trend set by Urdu1: with “Asi”, that started during ’Ishq-e-Mamnuu’ to have recently ended and replaced by Menekşe ile Halil” by one channel, andGümüş” now being televised as “Noor” by a separate one.

Urdu1 has also replaced ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ with the dubbed version of “Fatmagülün suçu ne?” which it proudly calls on its official Facebook page ‘A perfect successor to Ishq-e-Mamnu!’  due to its successful maintenance of the highest ratings amongst other dramas during prime time that the former achieved. It has become apparent that ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ might just have been to Pakistan what “Gümüş” was to the Arab world: a flare that ignited a boom in dubbed Turkish dramas.

15073-ishqememnudrama-1355121560-707-640x480

With Adnan, Bihter, Behlul household names in Pakistan, several other Turkish soaps being shown and the final episode of ‘Aşk-ı Memnu’ having surpassed local blockbusters by garnering record-breaking ratings; Turkey’s current greatest cultural export, which has and continues to captivate millions around the world, should add another country to its map. For Pakistan has been swept, taken and transfixed by the thrilling storm of Turkish dramas!

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Published in: on March 16, 2013 at 9:04 am  Comments (6)  
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Pakistan’s Political Messiah Fixation


*Originally published in Pakistan Today.

A chapter of a survey released in July 2012 by PEW, spanning six predominantly Muslim countries – Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia – shows that majorities in four of the six states believe that democracy, rather than a strong leader, can best solve their country’s problems.

The country with the most prominent opinion contrary to those of other countries is Pakistan, where preference of a leader over a democratic government is mirrored in the percentages: 61 percent of Pakistanis say their country should rely on a strong leader, while just 31 percent say democracy can better solve national problems.

The expression of favorability towards an individual over a system, be it judicial or governmental, isn’t a new phenomena but a political and cultural approach that has been ingrained in Pakistan.

The plausible notion of a strong leader being the pivot of progress has been made to inflate in importance through over-emphasis in the country, to a magnitude that all remaining requisites for the state’s prosperity are blurred into insignificance by it. That is, potential leaders or figures are deemed the panacea; virtually messiahs.

Although the roots of this precedence remain somewhat obscure, it can be assumed that they lie in the grounds of political culture and history.

A quick glimpse through Pakistan’s tumultuous history would reveal a dearth of stability and continuation of a democratic system, which all the more provides validation to the idea that Pakistan is a developing democracy, not yet a complete democracy.

In February this year, a survey conducted by the Oxford Research International says Libyans would favor a ‘strong leader’ over a democratic government. Commenting on which Oxford University’s Dr Christoph Sahm said the survey suggested Libyans lacked the knowledge of how democracy works.

This applies to Pakistan as well.

This inadequacy of acquaintance with the system of democracy is one of the reasons for the ‘Messiah Mania’ in Pakistan: lack of understanding of how democracy works and interest in it leads to supposing one man can cure the country’s ills all by his existence at the helm.

A developing democracy, as we are, Pakistanis are also terribly disenchanted with the order of democracy itself after what they have seen in this greatly disappointing democratically-elected government’s tenure.

 Sifting through the historical pages of Pakistan’s formation, most Pakistanis evince towards Jinnah single-handedly creating Pakistan in support of this preference (of choosing an individual or leader over a system), forgetting the lapses of decades that have occurred since 1947 and the vortex of change that there has been on the geographical, political, social, regional and national landscapes, which cancel much, if not the entire, basis of comparisons and references of Jinnah.

Pakistan’s political culture has also bred this disposition: with parties centered on dynasties, their histories and scions, politics and governance in Pakistan have been made a play of personalities beyond what they should probably be.

But with the rise of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), it has been proven that the fashioning of this leaning is not exclusive to dynastic and ‘family’ parties such as Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

The Kaptaan’s larger than life persona, charisma of the cricketing days and illustrious background in a sport that is similar to religion in Pakistan’s – along with philanthropy, his shrewd stance that subliminally echoes this mentality (a single honest man can channel change even through a team of ideological turncoats, opportunists and remnants of previous regimes) – has alone bolstered and intensified the idea of a messiah.

A dictatorial history may also explain why nations like Pakistan and Libya would choose a ‘strong leader’ over a democratic government.

A past that has been a witness to and victim of four separate authoritarian military men wheels around the concept of a single omnipotent figure. This has devised the perception of ‘one-man-government’ in peoples’ mind who believe a lone man can cause massive shifts in the country’s fortunes, systems and situations depending on his nature an d intentions (good or bad).

After the death of Czech politician Vaclav Havel and North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, Joshua A Trucker, professor of politics at New York University, pertinently writes in his article on Al-Jazeera English ‘How much do individuals really matter in politics?’

The most pressing question for policymakers now is how likely it is that the course of Czech or North Korean politics will be altered by the death of Havel or Kim. Many important differences exist between the two, not the least of which is that Havel has been out of political power for years now, while Kim (we assume) has been running the country.

However, perhaps the most important difference is the fact that the Czech Republic is an institutionalized democracy while North Korea may be the world’s last totalitarian dictatorship. Therefore, one viable hypothesis would seem to be that there should be less disruption to the Czech Republic’s political trajectory (or any established democracy) due to the death of an important political figure than in a case like North Korea, where power is so centrally wrapped up around one person.”

Professor Trucker’s analysis is the principal point in this matter: power patterns contrast between a totalitarian and democratic governments and countries. Absolute control and authority is always vested in one figure in an autocracy but an individual is weighed by and down by the system in democracy (especially in a parliamentary democracy) with no space for any such ‘messiah’.

Another pressing question arises of this messiah culture that stresses a tremendous amount of reliance on a single figure: what will become of the country with the demise of the leader? Will the system, institutions and nation tumble into chaos? Who will take his place? After all, even messiahs are mortals.

Pakistan will have to take political leaders as they are: humans with flaws, who will have to make compromises, reconciliations and unfavorable decisions in the face of political gridlocks. A politician may possess a fine character and even a vision, but to expect him to actualize it for the country’s good all in his own entirety, unaided of followers, party members, a framework for implementation and a civilized system of governance is outright ludicrous. Which is why critical thought must be lent to all these factors and to make a cult of leadership is wholly nugatory.

Sculpting messianic idols out of political leaders, criticizing whom is to blaspheme and who are unknown to mistakes and over and above any system or principles – and the search for saviors needs to end for Pakistan, for it is an endless and futile one. To pull Pakistan from the precipice it currently staggers at will take more than a leader or a savior, and the population’s sensibilities being held hostage by this mindset that seeks a messiah will certainly not help.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Published in: on October 29, 2012 at 8:47 am  Comments (3)  
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Dissection of a Trivial Argument: Ramadan or Ramzan?


*First published on the Express Tribune Blog.

Since the last few years, the arrival of the holy month brings with itself the ignition of a debate on social media in Pakistan; at the center of which is the usage of words for the month: the Urdu word Ramzan and Arabic word Ramadan.

Some tweets explain better:

“Beena Sarwar @beenasarwar:

You can call the holy month what you want. I’ll use Ramzan, rather than the corporatised, commercialised, Arabised, westernised Ramadan.

Fazeelat Aslam @FazleetAslam

If you’re Pakistani say Ramzan. If you enjoy continuing Zia’s mission and being a lemming, please say Ramadan. #lemmings

AM‏ @delhisultan

@AneelaBabar Today we say use Ramzan, not Ramadan. Tomorrow it will be something else. Where will these social dictates take us? @bdutt

Those on left side of this schism opine that usage of Arabic instead of Urdu words are a constituent of Arabic cultural imperialism and religious rigidity in Pakistan; commenting sarcastically how the country’s name itself should be changed to Al-Bakistan (The Arabic language doesn’t contain ‘P’ in it.)

While those on the right argue for using Arabic words to keep to ‘proper’ religious linguistics or holding onto Pakistan’s Islamic heritage; often ‘correcting’ other’s greeting of Ramzan to Ramdan.

An article in Guardian titled ‘In Pakistan, saying Goodbye can be a religious statement’ on a similar Khuda-Hafiz/Allah-Hafiz issue, says:

‘Until about 10 years ago “Khuda hafiz”, which means “God protect you”, was the phrase commonly used to say goodbye. But, in the past decade, “Khuda hafiz” began to be overtaken by a new term “Allah hafiz.

While languages change and evolve with time, and Pakistan certainly has bigger problems such as corruption and militancy, the alteration has unsettled liberals in Pakistan, who say it reflects a wider change in the country’s cultural landscape.

The promotion of “Allah hafiz” first began in the 1980s under the rule of General Zia-ul-Haq when Pakistan was involved in the US- Saudi-backed jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.’

The belief that this ‘religious linguistic propriety’, which included the introduction of ‘Allah Hafiz’ and ‘Ramadan’ in Pakistan’s lingual fashion, began with Zia’s campaign of cultural Islamisation does hold truth. It has inevitably led to these (words, phrases) to be seen symbolic of the infamous General’s Islamification drive or ‘Saudization‘ of Pakistan; which is the cause of many liberals and progressive-minded people objecting to their use today.

Although it is a question of precedence of subjects that needs to be reconsidered by them because Zia’s ideological influence is at its most dangerous when it exists from our madrassas, mindsets to our constitution, not in mere words or phrases.

Despite that, it is important to realize that with the flight of decades; these words became incorporated into the nation’s lingo and style of speaking in a manner that they are now viewed and used as ordinary as any other ones (for most); regardless or unknown of and removed from their background of Islamisation/Arabisation of the linguistic culture. This is particularly true for the young generation of today; that was either born in the 80s or grew up in an age where they were unable to notice the process of lingual transformation that was being attempted through a state-fuelled campaign.

It is questionable whether the application of a few phrases or words cause or be a testament to some ‘rampant Arabisation’ of  Pakistan presently and to assume that all who like using the Arabic word for Ramzan are proponents of degradation of Pakistan’s own, distinct culture, lingual establishment and imposition of an Arab one, is preposterous.

Many use either of the words out of pure personal preference or habit. To be fair, Urdu as a language faces more threat of perishing at the hands of the colonial era inculcated sense of inferiority amongst us which has manifested itself in the ’Angraizi complex’, or the paramount significance that this society grants the English language over Urdu.

On the other hand, to believe that the occasional usage of Arabic words lends one more religiosity or ‘Muslim-ness’ is equally absurd. Those possessing this outlook need to review it, too, because respect for religion rests not in a handful of words but in actions, behaviours and attitudes.

Does addressing Allah as God make one a lesser Muslim?

Intentions behind uttering something and its essence is what matters most; words and expressions may differ.

The aforementioned points, thus, should validate how trifling the apprehensions and perceptions and their basis are for both of the groups. To be so vehemently opposed to the usage of either ‘Ramazan’ or ‘Ramadan’ by any, on the account of the stated views or any other reasons, is irrational and in contrast with good sense.

Let everyone have the freedom and choice to pick their own unit of language up, without forcing or prodding others to conform to each other’s self-defined mediums of ‘appropriate’ expressions.

The people of Pakistan need to stop making a mountain out of this molehill and quit attaching such alarmingly grand nature to it; of cultural foist and religious inaccuracy.

While Pakistan gets mired in troubles of far great and disturbing kind, debate over ’Ramazan’ or ‘Ramadan’, only gives prominence to the penchant amongst this nation with its preoccupation with the trivial.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Published in: on July 27, 2012 at 11:24 am  Comments (3)  
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Of Choorian, Cultures and ‘Calm Down, Dear’


First published at Viewpoint Online.

Posting the unedited version here:

Often things become such a commonality in countries that their implications and meanings, no matter what they hold, are simply reduced to being nugatory. Such is the case in Pakistan; questionable sayings, practices and customs that should usually arouse attention have become so imbedded in our society through repetition that they’ve developed into being a component of the declining environment.

Just a few months back, when the Parliament deplorably resounded with boorish bellows of ‘protest’ and other actions by the Opposition (that evidently consigned and littered all democratic and parliamentary norms, ethics and etiquettes to the trash bin) till the session’s end as Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh presented the annual budget – PML (N) MNA Tehmina Daultana came storming and flung her bangles at him in an entirely misogynist vein.

This, for some, might plainly have been a sign of rightful ‘condemnation’ or just another entertaining event in the history of parliamentary donnybrooks of Pakistan. But what it was an indication of, was left absolutely unheeded.

Hum nay choorian nahi pheni hui!’ (We are not wearing bangles) has assumed form of a very popular phrase amongst the tub-thumping and empty rhetoric of the demagogues in Pakistan.

This expression clearly and solely suggests masculine pride and male bravado along with an endorsement of the opinion (and a much-denoted one to the mores and beliefs of the Arabia of the Age of Ignorance) that women were universally inferior creatures in comparison to men.

By roaring that one does not wear bangles, he intends to put the message across that he is neither weak, a simpleton nor woundable or anything perceived to be of the other sex through the lens of condescension; thus completely depreciating womanhood and making it the subject of derogation.

And this is ignored and even met by cheers from throngs listening to speeches that contain the sentence.

But in the United Kingdom in April, Prime Minister David Cameron was entangled in a controversy while resisting demands for apology after he told a female shadow cabinet minister to “Calm down, dear” during an argument over proposed reforms in the House of Commons. Cameron had  mimicked a famous car insurance advert starring popular chauvinist Michael Winner.

Cath Elliot of Guardian wrote:

“Calm down, dear” is neither humorous nor edgy; it is instead a classic sexist put-down, designed to shut women up and put them back “in their place”.

“Calm down, dear” is what women hear when we’re allegedly being “hysterical” or “overemotional”. It’s that tired old gender stereotyping, the sort that implies that if we can’t even keep our emotions in check, then we obviously aren’t cut out for the more serious male world of politics and debate.’’

While Cameron did not apologise and his aides downplayed the whole affair, it may be rationale to deem that in view of all the media scrutiny and obloquy it drew out, he will be measuring his words and their significance in the future.

Harriet Stowe once said; Women are the real architects of society. How, one might ask.

Women, by divine nature have been bestowed upon with this sole authority and capacity. It is a woman, who nutures a child in her womb and then brings him up, instills values in him while grooming him that directly affect his behaviour, ethos and mentality.

Future doctors, politicans, leaders, journalists etcetra – all constitute a people and are indispensable to the system of the society and world, and each one of them owes his existence to a woman.

The role of a woman  is instrumental in everything. Even a female who is neither schooled,  not married nor a mother, naturally yeilds strength and inspires admiration leave alone one that is given her right to education, choice, freedom, equality and life itself . To remind one of Fatima Jinnah’s role in Quaid-e-Azam’s life would suffice here also.

Thus a woman is the real architect, an irreplaceable pillar of the society.

It was not only to highlight sexism but to illuminate the difference in the wider picture, the juxtaposition of the two incidents in Pakistan’s Parliament and the UK’s House of Commons in this article. What distinguishes the separate countries of the two events from one another, was culture. A culture and society that shuns torpor, prompts introspection and welcomes a discourse; something we are clearly devoid of and replace by impassivity, disinterest about such little things, denialism and nothingness.

It is of paramount importance for Pakistani to realize that it is not a revolution they need but a collective, national socio-cultural evolution.

This verbal male chauvinism, pellucid in the aforementioned Urdu remark, is part of the labyrinth of a mindset and culture in Pakistan that eventually translates and actualizes into the web of repugnant traditions of Vani, Sawara, Karo-Kari etcetra. It is all inter-connected and must be clipped from the roots that are strengthened by how each individual in Pakistan waters them; through silence at the and by ignoring the smallest of its elements (phrases such as the aforementioned).

With the backing and espousing of generations of people of different thoughts and time, cultures flourish and characterize traditons and norms that later all of new eras dare not abandon even if logic dismisses them (traditions). Traditions and beliefs such as, assigning women a position in the community of a lowly figure with not much purpose in life and even little ability. (Due to which’s perception, such sayings and disgusting activities are born)

It is about time as Pakistan totters from crossroads to the brink of a now-or-never stage, that  we cultivate a new culture – for which each indvidual must cast his efforts; question doubtful and wrongly established practises, convention and mores. Adopt better ones, encourage others to.

As individuals come together to become a people, people make a society bound by a culture constructed by them, that society is the base of a nation and nations form countries thus it is dervied that if the people change, the country will inevitably similarly.

To redefine Pakistan in front of the world, Pakistanis must refine themselves and their institutions; the culture and society.

- Hafsa Khawaja

Pakistan’s Fatal Revolution Viral


Having been dragged by the horses ridden by politicians and military despots through the mud for 63 years, the notion of a revolution has not failed to enter the mind of Pakistanis as a saw to cut and break free from this chain of humiliation manacling them.

Recently this feeling and thought has become stronger in Pakistan by the intensity of its pervasiveness fueled by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Pakistanis reason the absolute and dire need of a revolution in their country by stating how either they’re in the same or worser conditions than that of the two Arab nations.

 

 

One might question them, have they followed the events or studied the situations in both the aforementioned countries? Egypt is under the tyrannical rule of an obstinate dictator since he assumed power on October 14, 1981.

With an already-imposed Emergency Rule since 1967, Mubarak exercised his totalitarian muscle a great deal by depriving Egyptians of their basic human rights, suspending their civil liberties, stunting their social growth, curbing any freedom especially freedom of expression by strict and savage means   with an era that ensued of fraudulent elections, inflation, poverty, political persecutions, unemployment, corruption and illegal arrests. Om id Dunya has been survivng under a brute.

Reflecting was the case in Tunisia under the grip of Ben Ali.

While inflation and poverty et al maybe the similarities between Pakistan and Egypt, there’s a visible contrast in between which includes the chiefly important political landscape and the Civilian-Military imbalance of power.

People in Pakistan demand a revolution but a revolution against what? A Government they themselves elected in 2008? What a farce!

 

 

If its to remove the ‘American Puppets’ that ‘have sold the nation’s dignity’, who elects them again and again after getting carried away in the flow of emotionally-charged election speeches of the puppets? The very Pakistani nation now rallying for an uprising!

Pakistan suffers and continues to do so but largely because of the nation itself (minus the years of the forcibly saddled authoritarian rulers to our backs).

With an attitude of placing petty allegiances to parties over the country, dangerous divisions into sects, ethnic separations, indifference towards the erosion of Pakistan’s heritage, abandonment of culture due to sweeping shame felt in owning it and a despicable and damaging ‘conspiracy mindset’ that is developing which ascribes anything that happens in the land of 796,095 kmof area as a work of ‘vile foreign forces’ – to rife dishonesty from the farmer to the Parliament and a frazzled moral and social fabric – Pakistan in no way can afford or requires a revolution with these  inadequacies.

The entire world has witnessed the surreal, perfect religious harmony amongst the Egyptian Muslims and Coptics during the January 25 revolt. While Muslims prayed, Christians formed a human ring around them for protection.

When the Muslim Brotherhood members raised Pro-Muslim slogans at Tahrir Square which implied that Egypt was for Muslims only, they were stopped by Egyptian Muslims who declared Muslim and Christians are all Egyptians and a new shout:

“Egyptian people here we stand,

Muslim Christian hand in hand!”

During the prayers at the Square, priests and imams prayed for Egypt together. When the Imam was leading the prayers, Christians’ repeated after him in louder voices so that all Muslims could hear.

Even gender boundaries transcended as women and men prayed together.

Can this ever be the case in Pakistan where there is a stark wave of subliminal intolerance being infused into even the minds of the educated? Had it been that Muslims and Christians had stood together to pray, the Mullahs would’ve raised the cry of blasphemy and a deluge of fatwas would’ve swept the country. Had they seen women praying with men, threats would’ve tumbled down upon all those who participated in it.

Egyptians showed their awe-inspiring sense of nationhood by forming committees to clear the areas where they protested every morning after millions had gathered there the night before.

Groups were organized to guard the museums and properties and possessions of people, while all those who were skilled in their professions came running to provide help and assistance to their fellow countrymen – such as the doctors who aided the injured freely.
Does Pakistan need a revolution to adopt this spirit?

Did not this nation pull down Musharraf?

We’re not worthy of a change with our stagnant ways which smell of stench.
And thats where and what we have to change.

With the nation sunk in disagreements and tiffs,  wide possibilities of religious exploitation leading to extremism, some insisting the system of democracy should continue and the others pressing on Khilafat to be installed, even if a revolution takes place – anarchy, looting, killing would envelop the country and all hell would break loose with the advent of a civil war.

Pakistan would fall apart if a revolution takes place.

The solution is to let the democratic system go on, no matter how defected it seems to be currently. It will naturally strengthen the vital organs of the state (Judiciary, Media etcetra) to an extent that they start ironing out the loopholes in the institution of democracy itself in Pakistan, clearing the path for it to operate as it should.

 The failure of individuals in the system to deliver should not make one ascribe those to the system.

Too many times in Pakistan’s history have democratic governments been overthrown and at the end, such a mess had been carefully crafted that it proved to be the perfect excuse for the boots to come marching in.

Systems can not be overhauled for individuals. Democracy is a culture along with being a system, that needs to be cultivated. It requires time which this nation, that has resisted years of several dictatorships, refuses to give.

To see how democracy functions if facilitated with patience and continuity, one must not look any farther than India.

The nation must also aim for unity, an evolution, an intellectual revolution and aspire to establish the values Jinnah and Iqbal had wanted for their Pakistan.

 

Pakistanis must change their attitudes and themselves along with rationally analysing the situations to bring about a difference in their country, for virals can never be the remedy for any ill, in this case, the ills of Pakistan.

- Hafsa Khawaja

Mob Insanity or Justice? Save Pakistan From Itself!


 The basic structure of a society consists of laws and their regard which help to make it civilized. A society where the people take the law and process of justice into their own hands is in plain words : Chaotic and barbaric.

 

On August 19th, a video surfaced of two brothers Hafiz Mugheez Sajjad and Muneeb Sajjad being mercilessly beaten by batons to death by villagers in front of area police and a mass gathering in Sialkot. Their bodies were then hanged upside down with poles and then paraded in the back of a tractor trolley around the city which is known as ‘Shehr-e-Iqbal’.

 

Both brothers Mughees who was 19 and Muneeb who was 17, were Hafiz-e-Quran. It is being said that :

“At the early morning of 15th August 2010, the two brothers set of on their motorbike to play a cricket match. whilst on their journey, were distracted by a group of people who were looking for robbers who open fired on two people. The two brothers were wrongly accused of robbery, and without a fair trial, the police let angry mob of people kill the two innocent brothers.

They were murdered ruthlessly during the holy month of Ramadan. At the time of their death, both brothers were fasting whilst beaten to death viciously.”

Dawn News writes :

“On the the very day newspapers reported the Sialkot double-murder, they also carried a news item about the awarding of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz to the DIG Gujranwala, Zulfiqar Cheema, for “maintaining law and order”. The police officer, in whose jurisdiction Sialkot also falls, appears to do his job in a manner that is condemnable.

Meanwhile, SHO police, alleged mastermind of killing of two brothers, has fled away and is still at large, police sources said.”

  
This is not a case first of its nature in Pakistan, mob justice has been a routine practice especially in our country. Many incidents as such emerge from time to time. From catching alleged robbers and burning them, to killing non-Muslims on account of ‘blasphemy’  to stripping the sister by a family of whose girl the woman’s brother fled with.

When the general public, mostly which is uneducated begins to to play judge and executioner, it is time that the Government and Judiciary wake up.

 

One is left shocked and appalled after viewing the gruesome video leaving one wondering as why none of those who were present at the time of this incident including the eight policemen did not stop the barbarians committing this crime? Not one in the many who witnessed this spoke a word of protest! This clearly evinces the crumple down of our society’s moral framework and the virtual absence of the rule of law.


People are giving mixed reasons as to why the two brothers were battered to death ; while some say they were involved in crime, others say it was a petty rivalry.

However, even if they were (as alleged) guilty of committing a crime they should have been brought to the courts. No civilized society of the world or sane human would do what had been done to them.

Pakistanis proudly procalim to be a Muslim nation, yet what recenlt happened clashes with the saying of Propeht Muhammad (PBUH) :

“Whoever of you sees wrong being committed, let him rectify it with his hand, if he is unable, then with his tongue, and if he us unable, then with his heart, and this is the weakest of faith — or in another version: beyond this there is not a single mustard seed’s weight of faith (iman).”

Those who silently watched the teenagers being dragged into the mouth of death are equally blameworthy and censurable for the bestiality for them being  acquiescent to the cruelty.


Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has already taken Suo Moto Notice of the savagery and summoned the police officials while in the same vein Interior Minister Rehman Malik has also ordered an investigation while vowing to hang the culprits in the same place.

Indeed, those who had played a part in this should be dealt the same way.

As Islam says “An eye for an eye.”

The videos uploaded of the gore happening shows the faces of those who killed the boys as identifable and with the aforementioned commencements, the whole nation expects the matter to be solved and those behind it to be strictly and severely retributed rather letting the reality of this brutality to fade out .

The culture of sheer mob madness churned with naked atrociousness, masked under the name of ‘Mob Justice’ must be completely spurned by the iron hand of justice.

 

 After 63 years, this is what we have come to as a nation? Devoid of even a smidgen of compassion, humaity and conscience! Neither are we a civilized society nor a we a nation worth following. This is not the Pakistan Jinnah and Iqbal has thought of. Majority of Pakistanis believe and talk of Pakistan needing a revolution but revolution means change which we only deserve after evolving from being such animals into humans that reform the society. What we have today is what we are worthy of because the heart of this nation is rotten. With such occurences that slightly expose the ugly face of our society, one must say Allah has still been very kind to us as a nation.

 

I would only quote what Iqbal had once beautifully written :

 

“Ya Rab Dil-e-Muslim Ko, Woh Zinda Tamana De,

Jo Qulb Ko Garma De, Jo Roh Ko Tarpa De”

May heart bleeds for them,

May the soul of the brothers rest in eternal peace!

And Allah save Pakistan from itself!

- Hafsa Khawaja

The Angraizi Complex


Aamna Haider Isani had written an article for Instep by the title:  ‘A New Body Language For Cricket!’. In it, she mentioned the joy of watching a win for Pakistan but something she wrote triggered the engine of my mind to run and the muscles in my fingers to be exercised. Such were the two lines:

“The only slight shudder one feels is when Pakistan wins and Afridi has to talk to the commentator on how the “boys played well”‘ and “All credit goes to Umar Gul for sticking to Urdu” and from here I begin another blog post : The English or Angraizi Complex.

With a society immersed in denialism, dogmatism and their thorny roots that prickle when someone thinks out of the box – and that too, in a country marred by terrorism, corruption, unstable Governments with even exacerbated situations of political tensions, social confusions and economic strains, since the commencement of the War on Terror : the Pakistani mind-set is labyrinthine.

Although its been more than six decades since Pakistan’s liberation from the yoke of imperialism, yet the colonial-inculcated sense of inferiority in the natives of this land relating to their culture, language, customs, physical characteristics et al lingers tenaciously here.

The best manifestation being that speaking English in the country is the yard-stick to measure the education, personality, back-ground, caliber for many; the ultimate crown of sophistication.

And so, it’s considered a reason to shake your head from side to side, in an expression of shame lest Angraizi does not flow ‘fur fur’ on your tongue.

One fails to understand this, why do the Pakistani people stress incredibly upon learning English for our players or any other famous person from this land? Yes, this language is a global and important communicative tool to interact with and put one’s message across almost all around the world but everyone knows, its not for this reason that such emphasis is pressed on English here.

Our players do not go to the cricket grounds to speak Shakespearean English but to play and win. So what if Younas  spoke at a rate of 20 words per 5 seconds? So what if Afridi repeats the same words?

Are their accents and pronounciations larger than their achievements?

Indeed, celebrities and such popular persons are considered ‘public property’ and their lives are scrutinized but dismissing his flair and blazing performance for a mere language which he can’t speak fluently as it is neither his mother tongue nor his job to perfect it ? Those are petty thoughts.

The task of giving this country moments of joy is cumbersome in these times, but people like Afridi and our team make them possible through this sport. Then why does their fluency in this language matter?

Just because a language is global, it does not define or measure talent, class or stature.

Top football stars like Messi and David Villa, tennis champions like Nadal and many players in both football or cricket teams do not speak English. Many sporting stars of the world of today are proud to speak their language even if they know English or often speak English in their natural accents that are even difficult to comprehend, but neither does it disconcert their fans nor does it faze them.

Then why do we, impose this complex of the English language upon ourselves? Or feel dishonored when our cricket players utter broken English?

What loss of glory or ignominy  does it bring us? At a time when a variety of terrorists are the perceived face of this country, is the inability to talk in fine English, really the most of Pakistan’s worries? 

The success of India is often pondered upon by many Pakistanis but little do they realize that one of the basic reasons that the country is blooming today, both culturally and economically is their attitude. Apart from their hardwork and what has contributed to their economic success - most Indians seem to deal with their heritage, culture and history with three P’s : by taking pride in them, preserving them and promoting them.

Whilst in Pakistan, the culture and heritage is dealt with deal with three S’s : feeling shame in associating it with one’s self, shunning it and attempting to separating it from the course of life.

[Bear in mind, I do not mean the foul aspects of Pakistani culture and traditions. ]

Then why burst into flames of anger at other nations who scorn at our culture or country when Pakistanis themselves, fail to ‘recognize’ and embrace their own heritage, culture, roots, language, identity and past ? For if one himself does not respect them, why expect others to?

Hindi today, is in the top 4 most spoken languages of the world and Urdu? Pakistanis, the inheritors of this beautiful language which comprises Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Hindi itself, still hesitate to confabulate in it.

It is strikingly hypocritical, how a local who speaks in ‘broken’ English is met by pityful sighs and an eyeful of eyerolls but when a gora speaks ridiculously-incorrect Urdu, it is viewed to be ‘fascinating and cute’. Sad, to laugh and embarass one’s own while he tries to grasp a component of another culture but to be captivated by another when he tries to grasp our culture.

Culture and language are inextricably entwined or weaved into each other and spurning one’s language is tantamount to disgracing one’s own culture: a major social agency that forms any individual’s identity.

The capacity of this unfounded feeling of inferiority is the touch-stone of a failed people.

I do not condemn the usage of the English language or knowledge of it, but to treat it as some gauge-meter for many an significant things is a plain farce.

Deplorably, this concept is being furthered by many educational institutions and the institution of a family in Pakistan. Elite private schools prefer English as the sole medium of communication, rather some even handle the use of Urdu with strict handling [ Students are reportedly liable to punishment for conversing in Urdu in some of them ]

Families and parents are often seen to place the teaching of English as a priority for their little children while they crawl to reach the stage of learning, instead of Urdu. Its not a rare scene, to see some children in Pakistan with fluent English but terribly poor Urdu.

The abasement of Urdu and the ensurance of its protection, was also what was included in the list of interests of our people [ That later became Pakistanis ] in the pre-partition era and in the championing of the ideology of Pakistan.

To go by history books, it was one of what their identity comprised thus, there is less doubt, that Urdu language was integrant in Pakistan’s emergence.

When the British Imperialists came to the Sub-continent, they tried to foist the ways of their civilization (especially the language) on the people of the region, considering it far more superior than the culture of the people whose land they ruled. It may have inflamed the people of that time to revolt and rebel, but surely it is evident, that the imperialist-instilled constituents of their superiority as a people and all that their race represents and the state of being subaltern of all the natives and what is linked to them – are still obstinately self-retained in our minds; now be that the Gori-Chamri complex or this, Angraizi Complex.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

The Chain That Shackles Us – Poverty, Inflation and Child-Labour


We as Pakistanis have developed the habit of being unappreciative and ungrateful to what we have around us. Humans, as we are, are ravenous beasts wnating ever more. Recently, I heard a couple of young people I know whine and complain about not going to a posh restaurant where they wanted to dine but instead were going to a restaurant of equivalent standards. This made me ponder, have we ever seen what lies around us?

According to information available with WFP, the number of food insecure people in Pakistan has increased from 35 million to 45 million during and after the 3-F (food, finance & fuel) crises.

Also Pakistan ranks fifth among countries having the highest number of hungry people (to an estimate), with women and children among the worst affected.

A recent incident clearly paints the picture of desperation that has developed between people : in Karachi, women were killed due to a stampede as they all tried to acquire bags of flour.

The inflation rate in Pakistan was 13.68 percent in January of 2010. Inflation rate refers to a general rise in prices measured against a standard level of purchasing power.

In our country, around 85 per cent of the population lives on income less than two dollars a day and food costs are more than 50 per cent of the monthly expenses. And a surge in food prices has adversely impacted the food security situation in the country, resulting in poor children being deprived of the right of education just for the cause of working to do menial jobs at tender ages to help their families meet their ends.

According to a newspaper:

“Many wealthy Pakistanis employ children as servants, often to help with their own youngsters, a relatively common practice that Pakistani law does not prohibit. Slight and shadowy figures at the edges of birthday parties and nights out in fancy restaurants, these young servants, who rarely earn more than $50 a month, form a growing portion of Pakistan’s domestic labor force.
It was raw need that brought Shazia into the house of Chaudhry Naeem, a prominent lawyer who lives in a wealthy neighborhood in this leafy city in eastern Pakistan.
She received $8 a month to wash his floors, his cars and his toilets, her mother said, money that went toward paying off a family debt”

Inflation and poverty has lead to one of the most serious issues of child labour in Pakistan. As known to all, our population in the rural areas due to their lack of education and understanding, increase the number of children in their households as to strenghthen their man-power and with the envisagement that they’d be helped by their very children to facilitate them in times of need and by working.

Such was the case of Shazia Masih, a thirteen year old girl who worked as a maid for Former President of Lahore Bar Association and was tortured to death in Lahore. The girl worked for a mere amount of money for her family, that many in Pakistan would squander in a day.

The Senate was recently informed of 3.3 million children in Pakistan as child-labourers.
A report was published in 2009 :

“In Pakistan children aged 5-14 are above 40 million. During the last year (2008), the
Federal Bureau of Statistics released the results of its survey funded by ILO’s
IPEC (International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour). The findings
were that 3.8 million children age group of 5-14 years are working in Pakistan
out of total 40 million children in this age group; fifty percent of these
economically active children are in age group of 5 to 9 years. Even out of these
3.8 million economically active children, 2.7 million were claimed to be working
in the agriculture sector. Two million and four hundred thousand (73%) of them
were said to be boys.”

Child labour is also associated with physical, mental and moral exploitation of children. Not only is the child-hood of these children crushed and drained away but their mental growth is also stunted. These children when once, start working for their ‘Sahabs’ or ‘Bajis’, are blatantly mistreated and remain underprivileged of their rights. They are often beaten up as ‘punishments’ for little mistakes that these children might commit such as stealing. And why wouldn’t they?

*A child as defined by UNICEF is anyone under the age of 18.

When these children see us, of their very own age group and yet living a luxurious life and more fortunate, they start buliding grievance and grudges inside them that can be stated as a reason for the rise in crimes of murder, robbery that these youths later commit.

Though child labour is an entirely different issue in itself, my intention behing writing this is that the next time one of us begins to gripe about a meal not cooked of our choice, be thankful and remember the many children in Pakistan who sleep without a shelter each day, with hunger pangs resting in their stomachs and no hope for a better future.
Look around yourselves and aim for a change by working in your own capacity to put an end to the suffering of those who are victims of such atrocities or impoverished in any shade for every one of these issues are inter-linked and if we don’t break this chain, no one will.

- Hafsa Khawaja

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