By Ahmad Karim
Last week, Zeenat, a resident of Lahore’s rundown residential town, was set ablaze on charge of eloping with her lover Hasan. It was her callous, enraging mother and brother who burnt her own daughter/sister. And that she has no remorse or regret for burning her daughter to death. Parveen, the mother of Zeenat, according to some media reports, roamed in the locality after burning her daughter shouting angrily that she had burnt her daughter for dishonoring her family.
Honor killing in Pakistan isn’t a new phenomenon. We’re experiencing this scourge for decades. We’ve seen the killing of a woman too by repeatedly hitting bricks on her head in the precinct of high court by her degraded, mindless brothers for marrying by her own choice.
The mood of Pakistani male dominant society is unbelievably against women. A couple of weeks earlier, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body in Pakistan which is made to give recommendations to the parliament on ardent Islamic issues, gave recommendation to the parliament that a law should be made in which men (husbands) should have a right to beat women (wives) lightly. Ridiculous it is but a fact.
After Oscar winning documentary on honor killing by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, we were being told that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to approve legislation in parliament on honor killing and that this menace to humanity will be dealt with immense attention. Yes we were told and yet we haven’t seen anything palpable on that.
Not just killing in the name of honor we also feel immense pleasure in disfiguring our women. Acid attacks on women is a billowing trend in Pakistan, not just limited to villages, small towns and cities but it’s a flood that inundated the big cities of Pakistan too. There are a number of reported cases in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad too.
According to New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, acid attacks are at an all-time high in Pakistan and increasing every year. The Pakistani attacks he describes are typically the work of husbands against their wives who have “dishonored them.” Motivation behind acid assaults range from marriage proposal rejections to religious fundamentalism.
Recently we’ve shown our inner evil for transgenders too. A disgruntled customer in Peshawar shot a female transgender Alisha eight times who later succumbed to her injuries at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital. The prime suspect is arrested but that won’t change the mood of society towards transgenders.
The problem doesn’t lie in lack of education but in the mindset. As a society we take woman as toy, at some instances (you can also replace some by many) even as a shoe. We hit them, degrade them, ridicule them, disfigure them, rape them and when our thirst is at peak we kill them.
In educational institutions they’re the victims of misbehavior and also come under the threat of Islamic sword by self-styled contractors of religious student unions and in some instances by teachers too. In workplaces they’re being harassed and degraded. In many instances they’re forced to resign if not relinquishing to the evil intentions of their bosses. They’re the centre of concupiscent eye. In homes they can be burnt by their husbands, mother/father in law even if they just refuse to make dinner for the night.
On my way to work I used to see an old woman standing on the traffic signal of the famous bustling Mall Road of Lahore to sell microfiber towels for car-washing. I saw her everyday there for at-least an year. Now she has moved to another traffic signal in cantonment area of Lahore. I asked her why she has moved to here and she replied: “It’s because my selling at Mall Road was deteriorated. I moved here as it’s a posh area and thinks my selling will rise, which will help me feed myself.” She is a widow and lives alone.
The women of Pakistan are hard workers. They believe in themselves but we, the men, don’t. In Pakistan, a step outside her home is a step closer to disgrace. She is less important than even a tissue paper. We use them, abuse them and drag them to death for our own senseless fancies. We take pride in humiliating them. The most extolled among us is he who treats his mother, wife, sister and daughter as he treats the pig. In Islam, pig is the most hateful animal and the most denounced one. Yes that’s the reality and we’re living happily with it.
This is a societal suicide that we’re committing. We take care of our horses more than our women. The more we indulge in this shenanigan the more we tomfool ourselves.
Let’s hope the mother of Zeenat admits that she did a mistake and contrite. That her daughter’s decision to elope with her lover wasn’t that of a big crime. That she convinces her relatives, friends and family members that for a woman marrying by her own choice must not lead to her murder, honor killing. It’s a choice that is given by her religion and humanity.
But sadly, I’m not hopeful.