Combatting corruption with ‘zero’, Bindiya Rana, and more

This post is based on a note I began compiling over a week ago, sent to my yahoogroup the other day, which includes links to some articles on corruption and politics and a somewhat related note on Bindiya Rana, the Khwaja Sira (hijra) who features in Ragni Kidvai’s film ‘Bindiya Chamke Gi’…

‘Paying Zero for Public Services’: An Indian NGO called 5th Pillar gives the public a powerful ally, an imaginative way to combat petty corruption: a zero rupee note (“eruption against corruption”! – love it). Why can’t we do this in Pakistan?  (thanks Omar Ali)

Speaking of corruption: “The NRO judgment cannot be all about the evil in Asif Zardari. It must be seen on its own. It is a reminder of the time when the military’s illegal acts against Nawab Akbar Bugti were being tolerated because the latter was an unsavoury person” – Flaws in the judgment‘ by Asma Jahangir

Not quite related, except to the power struggle in Pakistan and to remind us what the real issues here are: What the Taliban want‘ – spot on analysis by Irfan Husain. We need to, as he says, “negotiate from a position of strength”.

Bindiya Rana at T2F. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Back to corruption, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in December advised the government to involve the Hijra community in loan recoveries, as has been done (apparently with some success) in India. Recently I happened to see a documentary film I really enjoyed, and learned a lot from, ‘Bindiya Chamke Gi’, by a young friend, Ragni Marea Kidvai, screened at T2F, that marvelous ‘more than a coffee shop’ community space. It was especially fascinating to hear Bindiya Rana speak at the end of the screening. (The film was made in 2007 and has been screened at the Kara Festval)

Bindiya is a member of the Khwaja Sira (preferred name for the Hijra) community. The film traces a day in her life and portrays the legal, social and cultural challenges that the Khwaja Sira community faces in present-day Pakistan.

Sabeen Mahmood and Bindiya Rana at T2F. Photo: Beena Sarwar

To deal with these issues, Bindiya has started an NGO called Gender Interactive Alliance (GIA). She says they are not looking for money, but for medicines and office equipment. She has been going around visiting village and urban communities providing awareness about HIV Aids ever she since she herself first learnt recently about the issues involved.

She has been active in collecting data about members of the Khwaja Sira community to facilitate documentation as ordered by the Supreme Court as a first step towards some affirmative action for them, particularly in terms of education and employment.

She welcomes the Supreme Court’s recent decision to provide employment opportunities for her community by involving them in the loan recovery programme (as is being done in India), but refuses to undertake this work without proper security and terms of reference. She says “we are not going to provide entertainment while collecting loans, we want to keep our dignity intact.”

Bindiya Rana has studied until class eight, in her hometown in Old Sukkur.  She has opened a centre operating from her home, where she provides training and awareness about health and HIV Aids. Every couple of months she wants to go back to the villages in Sindh and Balochistan where she has already visited communities. She has started her work without waiting for funding, and has so far been managing on private donations from well-wishers. She has written to the CM Sindh for an ambulance and doctor but has not heard back from his office so far.

And here’s how her issue is related to the Taliban, or rather the self-righteous mindset associated with Taliban. She and members of her community constantly face threats from the moral brigade. “They ask me, ‘Why are you wearing a sari, why is your hair loose?'” she says. “I say, give us (Khwaja Sira) jobs – otherwise what will we do but beg or become sex workers? They tell me, you can be found dead the next day. I say, death comes to everyone. I am not scared of death. With force you can conquer a country, but you can’t conquer hearts except by love. We are also Muslim. Our Islam teaches love. Those who quarrel, issue fatwas, they don’t serve the cause of religion at all. What’s inside that burqa, who knows. But what I am, is out there for everyone to see.”

Her contact details:
Gender Interactive Alliance
H. no. 14, Street no. 1, Liaquat Ashraf Colony
Mehmoodabad, Karachi
Cell: 0300-2835478

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