Rest In Peace, Pakistan’s Iron Lady.


On 23rd October 2011, Nusrat Bhutto departed from the world.

Although she was mainly known as the wife of popularly-elected Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was dubiously hanged by the Military Regime in 1979, and as the leader of his Pakistan Peoples’ Party after his execution; there was much more to this figure than this aspect.

Stanley Wolpert writes in ‘Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan’:

‘Nusrat Isphani was one of Karachi’s most beautiful debutantes. Her Kurdish-Iranian parents had migrated to Bombay, where she was born on 23 March 1929. Her father had founded Bombay’s Isphani Soap Factory, which soon exported large quantities of soap to Iraq that he later changed its name to Baghdad Soap Factory.’

‘Nusrat joined the Pakistan Women’s National Guard, was good at martial drill, and soon learned to drive trucks and ambulances. A tall, slender, dark beauty, she was soon promoted to captain, with silver pips on her shoulders.’

With her efforts even praised by Begum Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, she is widely acknowledged for her exemplary role as part of the Women’s National Guard at the time of the Refugee Crisis.

It was at Bhutto’s sister’s wedding, where they were first introduced to each other and just after a few meetings, he proposed to her. Even persuading her to elope with him when parents on both sides objected to the match, but after her refusal to undertake such an initiative, much drama ensued leading to Zulfi and his Nusratam (My Nusrat, as he used to call her) becoming man and wife within a week.

As the First Lady of Pakistan, Nusrat Bhutto was unparalleled. A paragon of style, class, refinement and sophistication along with being a fashion icon of that time, she dressed with flair and carried herself with natural poise as she stood side by side and hobnobbed with Heads of States and their wives.

At this position, she splendidly represented and promoted Pakistan at international forums. As the head of the Red Crescent Society, she worked tirelessly for the poor, women and children of Pakistan.

In 1975, she led the Pakistani Delegation to the United Nation’s International Women’s Summit and was also elected the Vice President of the Conference.

Since her marriage, not only was she the emotional and mental anchor for her ambitious husband in all his endeavors and decisions but soon became a political backbone for him when she assumed charge on his orders of PPP’s leadership (Coming to be the first female chairman of any party in Pakistan‘s history), when he was incarcerated after being deposed through a Coup.

During Zia’s authoritarian rule, she was kept under detentions, possibly in Class-C cells with no running water, bedding or air, hit with batons while attending a cricket match at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, when the crowd began to raise pro Bhutto slogans (It is said, that this clubbing was the origin of complete health deterioration that affected her later and the cause of Alzheimer)

Before Bhutto’s execution, both Nusrat and Benazir were whisked away suddenly, without previous notice, to his cell and were allowed only a half an hour with him instead of the full one hour entitled to the family on the prisoner’s ‘last day’. And that too, they could ‘meet’ only through the bars.

It was then that Bhutto gave permission to her to take the children and leave Pakistan if they wished to, but instead Nusrat Bhutto chose to take the dicatorship head-on.

Diagnosed of lung cancer during her battle against the cruelest of dictatorships, Zia ridiculously constituted a Federal Medical Board to decide whether her condition was serious enough to allow her to travel abroad for treatment which expectedly decreed that she was perfectly fine while recommending her tests that could have aggravated her malignancy. After much international lobbying, she was allowed to travel abroad.

With the founder killed, deserting members on the rise and the Zia regime leaving no stone unturned in trying to isolate PPP and throttle any legacy of Bhutto, she not only kept the party together but astutely organized it in the fight against the autocratic military regime but was one of the most prominent spearheads of the Movement To Restore Democracy, a movement for the revival of democracy and all the freedoms and rights it entails.

A lean woman who felt no hesitance in defying the dicatator and standing up to oppose his afflicted oppression on the nation , she was considered a threat by him and unsettling for the whole system he had organized to his advantage thus, arrested and placed under detentions numerous times as the MRD spread its activities throughout the country and gained support.

Throngs would come to hear her speeches or to her rallies.

Nusrat Bhutto endured a life, that is best-described as a struggle of suffering with a tragedy at each turn; From the Coup of 1977, Nusrat Bhutto’s life took a plunge into tumult and tragedy which continued till her demise. A plunge that took away her husband, both sons and a daughter from her. All murdered. Since the last few years, Begum Sahiba had even lost the ability to recognize her own two daughters, grandchildren or remember anything.

In all her 82 years, Begum Bhutto proved to be an epitome of strength, valor, resilience, elegance, resolution and extraordinary prowess; giving weight to her family’s tracing of their ancestry to the legendary Salahuddin Ayubi. She was and will remain a symbol of resistance and unflinching conviction against tyranny and suppression.  Something that even those with political dislike for PPP and the Bhuttos, would find hard to deny.

Her fortitude and story will inspire generations to come.

May she rest in what was never granted to her in this world; peace.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

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Shia Hazaras: Guilty of Being A Minority In Establishment’s Pakistan


*Also published at LUBP.

The Pakistan of today has found itself to be nothing but a wreckage of a country, a carcass of a state and an international outcast.

A tragedy brought upon itself by both; the sharp functioning muscle of the unofficial institutional dictatorship that aggrandized itself under four decades of military authoritarians and the Pakistani nation’s obscene obsession with easy acceptance of the exacerbation, denialism, dogmatism and preposterousness.

The very characteristics have been manifest in wake of the recent unleashing of organized and systematic bloodletting of the peaceful, educated and civilized community of Shia Hazaras in Balochistan by the associates of the Establishment’s ‘Assets’.

Carrying a history replete with persecution and torment, the Shia Hazaras have found little relief and difference between their past in Afghanistan and present in Pakistan; where they are the victims of various sectarian militant groups such as Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that deem and decry Shi’ites as Non-Muslims. ‘Impure’ creatures that they are determined to completely exterminate from ‘The Land of Pure.’

A question might arise, why is it that blame for this bloodshed is ascribed as such to them.

Amir Mir writes in one excellent article of his on the predicament the Hazara Shia have been placed in and the militant sectarian groups:

‘The SSP and the LeJ, which is considered to be the military wing of the SSP, were once the strategic assets of the state of Pakistan and have linked with al-Qaeda as its ancillary warriors, killing Pakistani citizens and targeting the security forces to dissuade Pakistan from fighting the “war against terror” as a United States ally.

The LeJ today has deep links with al-Qaeda and the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban and is considered to be the most violent terrorist organization operating in Pakistan, with the help of its suicide squad. As with most Sunni Deobandi sectarian and militant groups, almost the entire LeJ leadership is made up of people who have fought in Afghanistan with the backing of the Pakistani security establishment and most of its cadre are drawn from the numerous Sunni madrassas (seminaries) in Pakistan.’

The fact that these terrorist organizations are the ‘ancillary warriors’ of the ‘elements’ that the Establishment cherishes and avails in pursuit of its detrimental ‘Strategic Depth’ policy in Afghanistan (The Policy, to put it simply, is constructed on the Establishment’s compulsive obsession with the theme and idea of India as the arch enemy of Pakistan and envisages a Pro-Pakistan Government in Post-Troop-Withdrawal Afghanistan that counters the Indian influence there and protects ‘Pakistani interests’.) naturally transforms their position to being ‘untouchable’, considering they are part and parcel of the deal – thus the ‘failure of intelligence and the forces’ when it comes to sectarian killings similar to that happening in Balochistan of the Hazaras.

While much has been excellently chosen, written about and posted about the grave issue on LUBP and a few other sites that have proven to challenge the distortions of the mainstream media and welcoming to topics that they either ignore or willingly twist and feed to the people with their vulpine cunning – this post aims to focus on the collective, institutional and national conspiracy of silence that was concocted after the slayings of the Hazara Shias based solely on a sectarian footing.

One can only wonder where the conveniently-free-media is when fatwas, pamphlets and declarations of hate and instigation of murders are circulated around in different parts of the country?

Where does their self-proclaimed ‘patriotism’ and professional magnificence vanish to when it comes to the intentional misrepresentation of the massacres that only helps to reinforce, what those under whose patronage the groups act, want the people to believe?

Why is it that only outrageuously sparse coverage is provided to the victims and their plight but hours of talk shows are wasted on futile discussions?

And the ever-eager-to-take-suo-moto judges? Are the Shia Hazaras Children of a Lesser God in the eyes of a so-called judiciary that is anything but independent, rather just another instrument of the Establishment for furthering their goals and ambitions?

Afterall, what can be expected of judiciary that releases butchers like Malik Ishaq on grounds of ‘lack of evidence’

The Government too, brazenly watches over the the whole community being pulled down into pools of blood of their own while the Punjab Government gives the very butcher, a montly stipend and their Law Minister proudly courts extremists to garner votes for elections.

Hundreds from amongst the ordinary came marching on the streets and roads against Raymond Davis gunning down two Pakistani citizens and for a dubious ‘Daughter of the Motherland’ but as corpses over corpses pile of the Hazaras, none speak up nor the ‘activists’ hold their famed vigils.

Is the nation only moved and it’s compassion and anger only evoked when America is the proposed guilty party?

It must be made public knowledge to the citizens of Pakistan that these incidents of carnage aimed at the Shia Hazaras are not sporadic as they seem but part of an entire crusade (Note: The Shia Tooris of Parachinar, often slaughtered by the Haqqani Network members and other ‘Assets’ given refuge there) waged by sectarian militant outfits that are best-described as the subsidiaries of major terrorist organizations (in whose name and due to whom, the entire country has been struck by sheer devastation) and are under the auspices of the Establishment.

Which other nation should hold the importance of the lives, security, liberty and interests of the minorities highly than that of a country whose history bears witness that the threats to the interests and protection of the Muslim minority of Pre-Partition India was a central factor in fostering the struggle for its creation?

And today when the generations of that minority are a majority of the country – other minorities: the Shias, Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis are fraught with peril.

It is about time, that the proponents of Jinnah’s vision in this country, if any, come forward against the Establishment on all fronts and also fight for the rights of those whose only crime is being guilty of being a minority.

– Hafsa Khawaja

*Ironically, much of the non-controversial content in this post that concentrated on the lack of attention that the Shia Hazara murders deserved, was sent as three separate letters to the ‘News Post’ of ‘The News’ which they decided not to publish. So much for a free media.

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