New Age Islam Edit Bureau
14 August 2015
I Am the Bare Pakistan
By Syed Muzammil
Jinnah’s Letter to Pakistan: Who Do I Hold Accountable?
By Salman Zafar
In Defence of Human Rights Defenders
By Zeeba T Hashmi
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
UAE’s Anti-Discrimination Legislation
By Syed Mohammad Ali
Alas, the Fun Is Over
Sexual Abuse, A Taboo?
By Mehr Tarar
I Am the Bare Pakistan
By Syed Muzammil
August 14, 2015
I am Pakistan’s disaster,
I am Pakistan’s reluctance,
I am Pakistan’s prejudice,
I am Pakistan’s vehemence.
I am that blazing ferocious sun, which strikes only the poor of Karachi and pardons the rich,
I am that torrent of monsoon flood that demolish the house of the peasant, overlooking the palace of the landlord nearby,
I am that dancing death in a farmer’s house whose seeds the government didn’t buy,
I am that wrath of God destined for the weak only.
I am the falsified history which is being taught to the students,
History which glorifies the tyrants and undermine the real sons of the soil,
I am the bellicose politician’s instinct of felony; felony that loots a nation,
I am that broken oath on the Holy Quran, a testimonial of a military general that he will not intervene in politics.
I am that wand of a serviceman which he uses against his own countrymen,
I am that constitution, which he shatters and diminishes,
I’m the defence budget; it’s a taboo to bat an eye on me,
I hide behind that prejudice against Balochistan, and that stigma of suppression of its humiliating voices.
I am that stolen baby from a children’s ward that left my mother with hue and cry,
The mother which carried him for nine months in her womb,
I am a poor man’s kidney; stolen and sold by a corrupt doctor,
I am the instinct of that barbarity, which makes a person steal dead bodies,
Dead bodies from unsafe cemeteries; from unsafe graves.
I am that urea, which is being adulterated in milk,
Milk that is fed to an infant; that runs in his veins,
I am the agony of a six-month-old baby being raped by a barbarian,
I am the vulnerability of an incarcerated man for a crime he didn’t commit,
I am a life wasted behind the bars in a jail cell.
I am the poison a homeless mother mixes in food to feed her kids and to herself,
That last fatal supper,
That defeated suicidal jump in the river,
I am the torpidity of a prostitute whose moans are considered as joy,
I am her numbness, her naiveness, her invisible dried tears.
I am that Islam, which is being saved by burning the colonies of the Christians,
I am that dollar-sponsored jihad that took our sons for good,
Jihad that filled the pockets of the oligarchs,
I am the clandestine face of its pseudo intelligentsia,
I am its mainstream, which turned out to become the lame-stream,
I am its hypocrisy.
I am Aamir Liaquat’s fancy branded dress, the dress he wears whilst lecturing about the simplicity in Islam,
I am Junaid Jamshaid’s beard, which made him escape the accusations of blasphemy,
I am Asma Shirazi’s symbolic scarf, which never covered her head,
I am Bilal Qutab’s tasbeeh that he rocks whilst wearing his Armani suit,
I am Bilawal Bhutto’s surname, borrowed from the mother, the only one of its kind.
I am Salman Taseer’s blasphemy, punctured by the bullets of Mumtaz Qadri,
I am Mubashir Luqman’s hoopla breaking news, nobody believes me.
I am the tumultuous citizen, searching for my culprit,
I am the lost patriotism, the lost philanthropy and the lost nationalism that once nurtured into the heart of this country,
I am a lost dimension,
I am a forgotten ideology,
I am an unworthy sacrifice,
I am the bare Pakistan!
Syed Muzammil a mass communication graduate based in Lahore loves to write about the social and political issues of our society.
Jinnah’s Letter To Pakistan: Who Do I Hold Accountable?
By Salman Zafar
Where do I begin?
Where do I end?
68 years ago, you two breathed your first – I remember it like it was yesterday. It wasn’t ideal. They thought you two wouldn’t be able to make it, but you did. I was such a proud father – the effort, the commitment, the resolve, it all had finally paid off.
After the euphoria died down, it was time to snap back to reality. The challenges ahead were steep, but both of you had my unwavering support. My health was giving up on me and I knew I did not have a lot of time. But I wasn’t worried – the people close to me knew how dearly I loved my daughters and they promised to look after both as their own when I’m gone. I begged them to hold both of you till you can walk, and then give you the confidence to run and subsequently fly. They promised they would.
But they lied.
They thought I wouldn’t know. They thought I wasn’t aware. But I was watching all along, cursing myself for the wretched people I left you two with. The very same people I called my friends. The very same people I trusted with the greatest creation of my life. I hoped this was just a bad lot, I hoped the next one would be better. But alas, I hoped in vain.
From the moment I was gone, they moulded your upbringing to suit their selfish ambitions, sowing the seeds of division inside both of you. I wanted both of you to be the best of friends, tackle the hardships and then come out strong together. I wanted you to grow up as enlightened, tolerant children that celebrate the diversity and welcome the uniformity around them.
But they divided you on every possible level, pushing the poison of hatred deep between your sister’s veins. For 24 straight years, you got what you wanted and your sister just stood in the corner, watching on in anticipation, hoping that something would come her way too. But it never did. Eventually, things reached a stage where your sister could not take it any longer and she cut off all ties in 1971. And who could blame her?
I died all over again that night. My own two daughters, divided permanently.
I hoped that this would be a lesson for your future caregivers. They had abandoned your sister, but surely they would not make the same mistakes again by abandoning you too. But they did, and the way they went about it was steeped in manners that would even shame the vilest creatures that walk this earth.
They were there for you when you had something in store for them. When you didn’t, they turned a blind eye, only to promise their love and affection for you again, when you were covered in diamonds and jewels. The abuse you suffered defied all sense of rationality, covering stories that are considered objectionable even in barbaric societies.
Instead of separating religion and state, they turned it into one inseparable blob. Instead of celebrating regional and ethnic diversity, they suppressed it by focusing on national identity. Instead of using finance as a way of eliminating inequality, they used it as a tool to accumulate personal wealth. Instead of investing in education, they invested in the military. Instead of improving healthcare, they developed means to produce poisonous medicines. Instead of promoting women rights, they strengthened the patriarchal structure of the society. Instead of empowering minorities, they constitutionally made them second-class citizens. Instead of using resources to get our own house in order, they focused on engaging in proxy wars with our neighbours.
But who do I blame?
Who do I hold accountable?
Where do I search for answers?
The Khaki pseudo-deities in Rawalpindi?
The opportunistic feudals in Larkana?
The smiling dictators in Raiwind?
The megalomaniacs at nine-zero or that fascist in Bani Gala?
Is there no end to the horror story that they have turned you into?
I died a long time back, but I go through the pain over and over again, when I look at what has become of the only daughter I have remaining.
Today, I wish you happy birthday, much like every August 14, for the last 67 years.
But is this really a day of celebration?
I pray and hope that you have many more, but every passing year, the strength of my hope becomes thinner.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah
In Defence of Human Rights Defenders
By Zeeba T Hashmi
August 14, 2015
Human rights defenders are individuals or groups striving for the protection, advocacy and continuation of the causes that are held close to the basic rights and dignity of the people. The major responsibilities of human rights defenders are to keep in check policies that infringe on the basic liberties of an individual or a community, to campaign for civil rights and present recommendations through peaceful means to secure a smooth path for projection and awareness of the rights people have.
The UN broadly categorises the term defender as anyone, belonging to any gender, who is committed to human rights causes professionally, non-professionally, paid or voluntarily. The UN adopted the Universal Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, which Pakistan voted in favour of. Though the declaration has no legal binding on nations, it contains principles and clauses that are legally binding in other treaties, namely the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Pakistan is a party. More so, it contains guidance for party nations to comply and form laws that ensure the protection of human rights defenders. The UN Human Rights Council has devised the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which records progress on the human rights situation in party states where they also receive recommendations from other nations. In its last 2012 UPR, Pakistan accepted seven recommendations for providing security, combating impunity, ensuring provision of justice to rights defenders, introducing strong legislation to protect journalists, aligning legislation with those stipulated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and implementing measures to protect the lives of these defenders. Pakistan has also received the recommendation of formulating a national policy for protection of human rights defenders but so far it remains unimplemented.
In the absence of any protection from the state in Pakistan, human rights defenders working on sensitive issues stand vulnerable to threats from those who consider demands of equality, justice and security to be in contradiction to their rigid social conventions. As most of the current laws were brought into jurisprudence during General Zia’s era of radicalisation of the Constitution, the oppressed — in particular the minorities — have borne the worst brunt of injustice, which makes human rights defenders easy targets of violence for voicing their concerns. Any demand or attempt made by lawmakers to change draconian laws has been heavily obstructed and silenced. Things are predominantly left as they are because it suits certain circles of power in the state.
Every human rights defender should be able to enjoy the right to life and security, due process of the law, freedom of movement, accessing and imparting information, and freedom of expression. However, this is not happening here. The perceived sense of security is very different from the reality. When in the field, with the current set up of society, there is sheer opposition to the advocacy of human rights, which is further entrenched in a feudal mentality. Also, there is a misperceived notion that human rights advocacy groups are working on a ‘western agenda’. This propaganda has been spread by religious-political parties. It is not just society that is maligning advocacy work for religious and political motives, it is also the state that is party to intimidating human rights workers or individuals practicing their right to information and freedom of expression. The state has been bringing up sedition charges against human rights and political activists in Gilgit-Baltistan, thus blocking their right to express themselves. It is also ironic to note that harassment and attacks on rights defenders continue with impunity, thus creating an air of silence and fear in society. It is because of this that oppressors and tyrants are given protection whereas the rights of the oppressed and poor people are constantly violated. Bigotry and hate speech on sensitive issues have also become the reasons for violence against human rights defenders.
Many human rights defenders and individuals have been targeted for their causes. On May 7 last year, a human rights activist, Rashid Rehman, lost his life because he was defending a blasphemy accused in a Multan prison. What causes more concern about this case is that Rashid Rehman had complained of the threats he received from his known opponents, yet no action was ever taken by the police to even question those named by Rashid Rehman in his complaint.
The recent murder of Sabeen Mahmud represents shrinking spaces for expression of ideas and views due to violent threats and intimidation. The case in point is the very prevalent existence of the issue of missing persons in Balochistan. Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by gunmen in her car while she was on her way home after organising an event featuring Mama Qadeer, a powerful spokesman for the missing persons in Balochistan. It is also imperative to mention here that Mama Qadeer himself was refrained from speaking at another similar event organised by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
While taking into consideration the importance of human rights defenders in a society with a view to bringing transparency and accountability to the people, the Constitution and policies the state undertakes should enshrine the protection of the lives of these people because of the sensitivity of their work. Currently, no organised work is being carried out for the protection for human rights defenders, despite the fact there is a crying need to look into this dynamically by bringing into the loop networking between civil society organisations and political parties so as to stress upon the government the necessity of taking steps through its law-making machinery.
Zeeba T Hashmi is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at email@example.com
By Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
August 14th, 2015
MARX famously asserted that slaves, serfs and lower castes became ‘free’ when the bourgeoisie overthrew the nexus of feudal lords, clergy and kings that ruled over western Europe for centuries prior to the English and French revolutions. No longer would one’s birth be the determinant of social status; a new world had emerged in which all human beings were considered equal – in the language of the French revolutionaries, everyone was a ‘citizen’ with immutable rights and entitlements that the modern state would protect. The age of divine kingship and caste-ism was over.
Yet even in its embryonic stage, the modern social order was hopelessly compromised. Only property-owners were deemed ‘citizens’ in the First Republic, a fact that rendered virtually meaningless what was otherwise an utterly compelling notion of ‘freedom’. In his unmistakeable sarcastic style, Marx opined that ‘freedom’ under the apparently enlightened bourgeoisie was effectively a meaningless choice: the property-less mass of working people was ‘free’ only to choose whom to sell its labour power to in exchange for the nominal wage that would keep it alive.
In the almost two centuries since Marx’s seminal critique of capitalist modernity first appeared, the world has undergone numerous transformations, most of which have been triggered by the ever-increasing capacity of the human intellect to understand and then harness the power of Nature. As we have traversed this journey, the blatant contradictions between the narrative of an enlightened and equal world and the brute realities of exploitation, discrimination and exclusion have never gone away – in fact they have become more acute, even while we try unfailingly to sweep them under the proverbial carpet.
The state itself is the heartbeat of a system in which historical oppression occurs.
It is in the context of the nation-state project that these contradictions come to the fore most glaringly. Every state in our world claims to be the paragon of freedom, enlightenment and guarantor of its citizens’ interests. Yet the state itself is the heartbeat of a system in which the historical oppression of the property-less, people of colour, women, ethnic and religious minorities – the wretched of the earth – is reproduced on a daily basis. Any genuine attempt to liberate human beings from the system that enslaves them must therefore be premised upon a challenge to the nation-state project.
It is not by chance that I write these words on ‘Independence Day’, when the last thing we are all supposed to be doing is challenging the nation-state. On this day we are trained to celebrate our ‘freedom’, and vow to defend it at all costs. We go out onto the streets with our families and soak up the carnival-like atmosphere. We give thanks for all of the things that Pakistan has given us.
It is on days like this that dissidents and critics are chastised for always painting the country in a negative light. While I appreciate the imperative of writing about and celebrating good things in society – and there are many – I think it is precisely on occasions like Independence Day when it is necessary to critically interrogate what freedom actually means.
Among other things we ought to pause for a second and consider whether all ‘citizens’ of this country actually share the nationalist sentiment that is most pronounced in urban centres. Is it likely, for example, that the humiliated villagers of Kasur who have been traumatised by the local police, administration and the gang of child molesters that these state functionaries have wilfully protected feel a great deal of love for Pakistan right now? Why would they?
And what about the thousands of residents of the I-11 katchi abadi in Islamabad whose homes were bulldozed into dust only two weeks before ‘Independence Day’? Do they feel like celebrating? What about the so-called IDPs languishing in camps, still unable to return to their homes? Or those ethnic-nationalist political forces who continue to be branded ‘traitors’ 68 years after they first acquired the lofty title (many of whom have never picked up a stone, let alone weapons, against the state)?
How do we reconcile the mundane suffering of those without power and money in our criminal justice system with the nominal idea that we are ‘free’? If one is poor or deemed a public enemy the principle that actually operates in our courts and police stations is ‘guilty until proven innocent’? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? And then there is the fact of ours being amongst the most patriarchal societies in the world, where most women do not even enjoy the freedom of walking down the street anonymously.
It is not as if the so-called ‘advanced’ societies are free from these contradictions – they were after all the original site of Marx’s critique of modern capitalism. The truth, however, is that we spend so much time distinguishing and defending ‘us’ from ‘them’ that we neglect that most of ‘us’ are anything but free, subject to the whims of those who rule in our name.
Aasim Sajjad Akhtar teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
UAE’s Anti-Discrimination Legislation
By Syed Mohammad Ali
August 14, 2015
The UAE government, this past month, has enacted an anti-discriminatory law with much fanfare. While the new law has been justified by the need to prevent hate speech, the context within which this legislation has been introduced also provides ample reason for concern. The UAE anti-discrimination law has made hate speech a legal offence punishable by a jail term of up to 10 years, as well as massive fines. The law not only prohibits blasphemy against any religion but also hate speech, or the promotion of violence or discrimination against any individual or groups on the basis of religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnicity. The law aims to curb such detrimental acts, be they expressed through verbal speech, broadcasted electronically, or published in print or through the internet.
Local newspapers within the region have lauded this law for laying a sound foundation to ensure an environment of tolerance. Public figures in the UAE have praised it as well, terming it a proactive attempt to curb intolerance and the resulting social upheaval that can be instigated, pointing towards, for example, the negative outfall of the caricaturisation of Islam in Western societies in the name of freedom of speech. The UAE, a country ruled by hereditary dynasties, like other Middle Eastern countries, is also becoming increasingly concerned about hard-line militancy. It is weary of growing sectarian tensions in the Gulf, given the recent blasts at mosques in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as threats by the Islamic State (IS) following its participation in US-led air strikes against the IS. Apparently, the new law would not only help curb hate speech against other religions, but also counter those hard-line militants, who often label followers of other schools of Islam as being heretics or non-believers in order to justify violence against them. This scenario seems to provide reasonable cause for the anti-discriminatory law.
Moreover, the fact that the law claims to prevent hate speech against all religious beliefs, or other racial or ethnic differences, seems to lend it further legitimacy. However, such optimistic assessments do not adequately contend with the prevalent political environment within the UAE, which does not exhibit much tolerance for dissent. Thus, while the anti-discrimination law may seem to offer indiscriminate protection from hate speech and discrimination, its implementation remains prone to selective interpretation.
Human rights campaigners, in particular, view the new law with suspicion and think it will be used to curb free speech and criticism of the UAE government. Their fear seems substantiated by recent news items about a Saudi blogger being persecuted under the new anti-discrimination law. Mohammed al-Hadif, who has over half a million twitter followers, has been a vocal critic of the UAE’s support for Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen. The Dubai police have launched a case to arrest al-Hadif, who is thought to travel between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for instigating hatred against the UAE. The use of this new anti-discrimination legislation against a political commentator is thus being cited as an example of stifling criticism under the guise of preventing hatred or discrimination. If the UAE really wants to tackle the problem of discrimination, it needs to also do more to address the other glaring forms of discrimination in its midst, including the second-class status of women, and the mistreatment of poor migrant workers. Whether this new law will be used to tackle varied forms of gender or ethnic discrimination at the workplace or in other situations remains to be seen.
Alas, the Fun Is Over
By Ayaz Amir
August 14, 2015
In the matter of destruction the gods have a choice. Whom they would destroy they first make mad…or they first make ridiculous. The MQM has gone through both phases. It made itself mad and is now making itself ridiculous.
Altaf Hussain is wrestling with the impossible. He wants to turn time back, to his glory days when no one had the power in Karachi to utter a word against him. The entire media – the whole lot of lions roaring on the channels and displaying their courage – were like lambs not too long ago. No matter how long his rants lasted – and in his lexicon, as in Chaudhry Nisar’s, brevity was not the soul of wit – all the channels were duty bound to carry them live. At a gesture from him life in Karachi would come to a halt.
No dictator in Pakistan’s history had this power. Indeed, it was something more akin to a reign of terror and the price of crossing the party’s path, or incurring the Fuehrer’s displeasure, was high. Yes, the MQM had a mass base and its support was genuine. Yes, it gave voice, and a sense of entitlement and power, to the Mohajir under-class and the Mohajir petty bourgeoisie. This was a phenomenon but given a sinister edge by the cult of violence.
Big-time Mohajirs were among the lords of the Pakistani privilegentsia, part of the ruling class, purveyors of ideology and keepers of the national flame. Paranoia was part of the migrational baggage these super-players brought with them from India. Paranoia and a sense of narrow nationhood were amongst the gifts they bestowed on the new state. Leading bureaucrats who became policy leaders and set the country’s direction were mostly Mohajirs.
Altaf Hussain was not of this class. He represented the other side of the equation: the Mohajir middle and depressed classes who settled not in the posh centre of Karachi but in what were then its outer suburbs. With no little help from the Zia regime – which wanted a counterbalance to the PPP – he spoke to this constituency. There were others who crafted the ideas. Over the years many of them were sidelined or ‘eliminated’. Altaf Hussain remained the undisputed caudillo, his word soon law and scripture.
It was great while it lasted. No government could afford to displease the caudillo because he had the country’s largest city and only port in his grip. So governments and political figures sought his favour. And the MQM laid down the rules. Karachi became a lawless city with the only law that of the gun and extortion.
Operations to bring the MQM to heel were attempted but they were half-hearted affairs and when they petered out – at the altar of expediency and lack of resolve – Altaf Hussain’s mystique, that he could not be touched, became all the stronger. (For good measure he had relocated to London in the early 1990s…making him in physical terms out of anyone’s reach in Pakistan).
Gen Pervez Musharraf proved to be the party’s biggest benefactor (after Ziaul Haq). The Haqiqi dissident faction led by Afaq Ahmed was disarmed and areas under its control handed over to Altaf Hussain. Police officers said to be involved in earlier anti-MQM operations were systematically eliminated. (Rao Anwaar was one of the exceptions, proving to be smart and getting out during the Musharraf years. The MQM fears him for good reason. He knows the party inside out.)
Altaf Hussain’s problem is easily understood. He’s finding it hard to accept that the old glory days are over. The sector in-charge and TT pistol siyasat which was the MQM’s vateera, its hallmark, is over. This ‘tarz-e-siyasat’ could survive so long as the army hadn’t made up its mind…so long as the army was a victim of its own irresolution. But when under Gen Raheel Sharif it decided, over the heads of the politicians, to declare war on terrorism in all its forms and varieties – whether ‘jihadi’ terrorism in Fata or the MQM’s ‘secular, liberal, progressive, middle class’ terrorism in Karachi – the MQM should have been able to read the signs.
It should have reshaped its posture. Altaf Hussain’s problem is that he’s a prisoner of his past (as indeed we all are). He’s living in the past while time in Pakistan, at long last, has moved on. The night of the sector commanders is over. Only he is not realising it. Karachi is moving out of its reign of terror. Now the caudillo can terrorise only his inner circle. Pity the members of the thrice, four times reshuffled Rabita Committee. Spare a thought for the Haider Rizvis and Waseem Akhtars, who put such a fearsome, angry face in public…only to tremble in private when the ‘Rehbar’, the caudillo, works himself up into one of his regular rages.
With its hold on the media the MQM can hog the limelight and portray itself as the victim of repression. But it is another sign of the times that there are less and less people impressed by its old mastery over the histrionic arts, and such visual displays as lamentation and posturing. In any event, the key question is how the people of Karachi are taking the present operation. There is broad agreement that Karachi hasn’t breathed easier in years.
So the resignation ploy is not set to work. The army is set on its path and it knows what has been achieved in Karachi…indeed what has been achieved across the board, starting from Fata and spreading elsewhere. It is not about to throw all this away because of this latest bit of theatre. It wasn’t even a well-thought-out move. As reported in the press, the caudillo, beside himself with anger, gave his leading members a severe tongue-lashing. To appease him the resignation suggestion came up. That’s the amount of thought that went into it.
The Rehbar clearly is not a happy man. He faces legal troubles in London, the crackdown in Karachi and, to top it all, dissension and discord for the first time within the party (in the tongue-lashing special mention was made of the ‘cowardice’ of some leaders). Distance is feeding and magnifying this siege mentality.
Mafia rules in Pakistan are simple. To be a successful gangster you must have your area or ‘ilaqa’ SHO – police station house officer – on your side. The army was Karachi’s area SHO for long and for the wrong reasons it was on the MQM’s side. What will it take for the MQM to realise that that cover stands withdrawn?
Germany’s tragedy was that one of the most culturally advanced nations on earth came under the thrall of a primitive creed like Nazism. Mohajirs are the most educated lot in Pakistan, heirs to the culture of Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad Deccan and what not. And the major part of them in Sindh’s urban spaces had to come under the spell of a party like the MQM…wedded to the politics of coercion.
Our history is colourful. The Jamaat-e-Islami introduced ‘danda’ siyasat into this country. The Afghan ‘jihad’ gifted us the Kalashnikov. The MQM was inventive, making the drill machine and the gunny bag symbols of its politics. (Lyari gangsters have made the gouging out of eyes their trademark. And the leadership of the so-called mainstream parties, both in Sindh and Punjab, have laid down new lessons in the art of turning politics into a source of profit and even plunder.)
Altaf Hussain can’t reinvent himself. Asif Zardari can’t change, nor can the Sharifovs. All represent an age that is dying, breaking down before our eyes. New realities are emerging but the political class, still drawing its inspiration from the past, is having a hard time recognising them.
Sexual Abuse, a Taboo?
By Mehr Tarar
August 14, 2015
The horrific report by The Nation on a Kasur-based gang allegedly involved in child sexual abuse and pornography has sent shock waves throughout Pakistan. As I think about the different parts of the report, the picture that forms in my mind is not limited to Kasur. To me, this is not merely a child sexual abuse scandal. This represents much of what is wrong with our society. And while the report has shaken Pakistan’s collective conscience, it is merely a wake-up call about a phenomenon so rampant, it is nothing short of escapism to consider it uncommon.
Without going into any sociological and anthropological discourse about a taboo subject, suffice it to say that taboos surrounding sexuality exist in all strata of our society. The Kasur sex-abuse case is not about individual choices to indulge in sexual acts, but a series of acts of sexual exploitation of minors, reportedly, since 2006 to the present-day. This is a crime against humanity on multiple levels: moral, social, legal, even if the religious aspect is set aside for a moment. Forcing minors to perform sexual acts on one another, video-taping the acts, blackmailing the victims and perpetrators and their families, and distributing/selling the videos in the local market and on the internet are all bookable crimes under any moral, social or legal code.
And that brings into focus the other ills that endorse and enable the perpetuation of such crimes, some acting as an inducement to minors being lured into participating in acts that they are either too young to understand the enormity of, or too afraid to stop.
The weaknesses and loopholes of an inherently flawed legal system serve as enablers of the exploitation of a certain class, and go hand-in-glove with corruption and cronyism of the political paradigm. Police stations do not serve as a forum where all are equal, and for a person from the underprivileged class to even be able to file an FIR is often more problematic than the original issue over which the FIR needed to be filed. There is blatant disregard when it comes to investigating the complaint, and any questioning of the perpetrator that happens occurs in a slapdash manner. Court cases drag on for longer than the complainant’s life, and most perpetrators, even when convicted, manage to escape the sentence on bail, or get a reduced sentence.
Political patronage within the police is a fact of life, and when they are not acting as the personal security detail of the self-avowed VIPs, the overworked, underpaid police are busy rounding up the usual suspects from the underprivileged class, while ignoring the real accused. Money talks, and bribery walks. How the elected members of the provincial and federal governments exploit their constituents — from one election to another — ignoring their day-to-day issues, and even major ones like the rape of their underage boys, is an indication of the weakness of the political system that is based on the manifesto of serving the nation, but fails to do so, caught up as it is in protecting criminals.
The elephant in the room is the staggering number of out-of-school children in Pakistan. Out of approximately 25 million out-of-school children, as per an Alif Ailaan report, 13 million are in Punjab and while there is huge tom-toming about the government’s efforts to overhaul the education system, this number is a stark manifestation of the low prioritisation of education. There would be no noteworthy decrease in the malaise until parents/guardians of children are fined, penalised or locked up for their failure to send a child to school. Education may not have the same connotation for everyone, but as per Article 25-A of the Constitution, it is mandatory for the government to ensure free and compulsory education for all children. School-going children are less susceptible to falling into hands of different mafias that are in the business of exploitation of children, especially boys, from a certain income-bracket. Beggary, prostitution, bonded labour, trafficking and slavery exist, and out-of-school children become the easiest prey.
Sexual abuse exists on all levels in all societies all over the world. While it is important to inculcate a sense of security in children, empowering them to voice their thoughts and fears, it is also important to remain attentive to the changes in the temperament of a child. Sexual exploitation engenders a state of fear in the victims, silencing them which leads to internalising of their grief. It is imperative to create a responsive environment, encouraging an ethos of talking and sharing.
Sexual abuse is not a taboo, but a crime, and like any other crime it must be reported, investigated and punished. That is the least that the collective conscience of a society and a nation owes to a victim, whose physical, mental and emotional trauma will remain unforgettable, and in some cases, irreparable.