Afridi’s googly and CII’s no ball

Afridi kitchenUpdated version of my PERSONAL POLITICAL column published in The News op-ed and TOI blogs on Friday

Beena Sarwar

Shahid Afridi’s googly lobbed at women’s cricket in Pakistan in an interview, dismissing women as just good cooks, went viral on social media over the past few days.

And recently, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) decreed that Pakistani laws that prohibit under-age marriage and place conditions on a married man’s attempts to take another wife are ‘un-Islamic’.

Ostensibly very different, both stem from the same patriarchal mind-set that sees women as inferior to men, justifying itself by invoking religion or cultural traditions. Continue reading

From India with love: Tribute to Hassam , Friend and Human Rights Activist from Pakistan

"You were the steady hand, now we must learn to fight the pain" - Haris Gazdar

“You were the steady hand, now we must learn to fight the pain” – Haris Gazdar

A moving and beautiful tribute to Hassam Qadir Shah, advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a principled human rights lawyer and decent human being with a million dollar smile and gentle manner, married to the filmmaker Aisha Gazdar. Thank you Kamayani for writing this #RIP – Tribute to Hassam , Friend and Human Rights Activist from Pakistan. Here’s a link to Hassam’s seminal booklet on criminal procedures, in easy to read Q&A format about gender violence in Pakistan, “There is no ‘honour’ in Killing – Don’t Let them Get Away with Murder’ (Shirkat Gah, 2002)

Rinkle Kumari: A Test Case for Jinnah’s Pakistan (Updated)

Marvi Sirmed raises some critical questions about the complex case of Rinkle Kumari, with a timeline of the case, on her blog Rinkle Kumari: A Test Case for Jinnah’s Pakistan (Updated).

Pakistan: A Thousand Separate Worlds

constable.jpg

Constable cradles Apache, a dog she rescued while she was embedded with Marines in Fallujah, Iraq. Photo: Chris Borouncle

I wrote this book review for the Brown Alumni Magazine, Nov 2011 issue, and didn’t get around to posting it earlier. This is a slightly longer version than the one BAM published.

Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself by Pamela Constable (Random House, 2011).

When it comes to Pakistan, veteran journalist Pamela Constable certainly ‘gets it’. Her latest book, ‘Playing with Fire: Pakistan at war with itself‘ is readable, thoughtful and nuanced. A veritable ‘Pakistan 101’ with much to offer even insiders like myself. 

As Kabul bureau chief and then deputy foreign editor at the Washington Post, Constable travelled extensively around the country. Her interactions with ordinary folk and newsmakers yield empathy and human faces often missing from discussions about Pakistan. Continue reading

Zarteef Khan Afridi: The tribesman who showed the way

Zarteef Afridi's latest photo. Courtesy: HRCP

A tribute to the human rights activist Zarteef Khan Afridi who was shot dead recently – my article in The News on Sunday. Latitude News earlier published a shorter, different version titled In Pakistan, an unlikely hero dies for his cause. Also see my earlier article: Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

The tribesman who showed the way

There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.

This was in the mid-1990s. The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque. Continue reading

General observations about Pakistan floods

Some general observations from the floods of 2010, which are sadly relevant again:

  • People affected by the floods (last year as well as now) were already among the poorest begin with although they do include some well-off farmers and trades-people too, in areas where there was already little access to education and healthcare.
  • The relief camps set up last year brought an unexpected silver lining in the opportunity to many flood affected people who had access to a doctor or a teacher – for the FIRST time in their lives – at the relief camps. This indicates the level of underdevelopment in Pakistan, the huge percentage of the population that lacks access to healthcare and education. Continue reading

‘101 uses for a chaddar’ – my article in The Star, 1980s

Scan of my 1980s article in The Star, with my illustrations

Women rock the boat

Pakistani women demand their rights. Photo: courtesy Nasir Mansoor, LPP

WOMEN’S DAY RALLY IN KARACHI: Thousands of working class women, many of them home based women workers, with red flags in their hands marched on roads of Karachi, chanting slogans against ‘mullahism’, religious extremism and for their democratic rights. The march started from Karachi Press Club and culminated at the Arts Council of Pakistan where a seminar was held in the open air theatre followed by songs, theatre and documentaries. They demanded: *End all discriminatory laws against women and minorities *End religious fundamentalism *Recognize home based women workers as workers in law, extend social security cover to them *Equal opportunity to women in all fields of life

Also see: Dedicated to Pyari Pakistanis: Happy Women’s Day, y’all! - a delightful sum up of the situation of Pakistani women, with statistics and action points, by blogger and cartoonist Mehreen Kasana. Check it out :)

Karachi rally speakers and demands: Continue reading

Gawaahi (Witness): testimonies of abuse, survival, resistance

Happy to get this email from fellow journalist and activist Naveen Naqvi:
“I am happy to report that our site, Gawaahi.com is now online. Gawaahi.com aims to archive digital stories of abuse, survival and resistance.
If you are interested in how we came about, please visit our site and read Gawaahi.com – our story.
You can find more information on our mission and team in our About page. If you see the page titled Our Partners, you will see the wonderful support we have received even before launch.”
Great going (and I love this visual by Zaina Anwar)!

Zekiye Eglar’s Punjabi Village in Pakistan (with my intro, epilogue & bio)

Thrilled to receive my copy of  A Punjabi Village in Pakistan – Perspectives on Community, Land, and Economy by Zekiye Eglar, for which I wrote the introduction, epilogue and biography of Eglar, a Russian-Turkish anthropologist, protegee of Margaret Mead at Columbia University. Eglar provides a fascinating account of village life in Punjab, Pakistan, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when she lived in Mohla, a village not far from Gujranwala.

The OUP publication compiles her out-of-print award-winning book (A Punjabi Village in Pakistan, Columbia University Press 1960) and its until-now unpublished sequel, (The Economic Life of a Punjabi Village), from a manuscript that Eglar’s friend and protege Fazal Chowdhry brought to the attention of Mary Catherine Bateson (prominent anthropologist, Mead’s daughter).

From the OUP website: “This volume contains relevant insights into Pakistani society, particularly women, which are still pertinent today, as well as a more holistic and humanistic view of village life in South Asia. Eglar’s study is useful for precisely what she focused on—the patterns of ritual service and gift exchange which underlay every facet of life in a village.”

Hardback 473 pages ISBN: 9780195477238 Price: PKRs.1,295.00
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