Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tariq Ali exposes incidents of abuse of women in Pakistan

I have just gotten around to looking at my copy of the December issue of the London Review of Books and there I discovered an article by Tariq Ali that should not be buried and forgotten. Tariq Ali is noted for giving us valuable information on affairs in Pakistan; I especiallay appreciate his analysis of the way Pakistan is structured [see his article “The Colour Khaki.” New Left Review, Jan-Feb 2003;].

In the December 18, 2008, of LRB [article entitled “Diary”] Ali reveals details about the rough treatment of women among some populations. Mostly, he tells us about Pakistan. What he reveals is of course usually carefully hidden; it should be exposed as such practices are cause of shame for any people.

Ali tells us the following about the treatment of women in Pakistan:
• Traditionalists have always considered love to be something that brings shame on families: patriarchs should be the ones to decide who is to be married to whom, often for reasons to do with property.
• A sample survey showed 82 per cent of women in rural Punjab feared violence resulting from their husbands’ displeasure over minor matters; in the most developed urban areas 52 per cent admitted to being beaten by their husbands.
• [O]fficial statistics admit to 1261 honour killings in 2006 and half that number again the following year. The actual figures are probably much higher, since many deaths go unreported. ‘Women are considered the property of the males in their family irrespective of their class, ethnic or religious group, and the owner of the property has the right to decide its fate,’
• Since the police and the judicial system regard murder in the family as a private affair, most cases don’t get to court even if they’re reported.

Here are some specific incidents he describes [in his words]:
• A man dreams his wife has betrayed him. He wakes up and sees her lying next to him. In a fury he kills her. This really happened in Pakistan and the killer escaped punishment.
• In 1999, Hina Jilani was in her office with Samia Sarwar, a mother of two from Peshawar seeking a divorce from her husband, when Sarwar’s mother burst into the room with two armed men in tow and had her daughter shot dead. In 1989 Samia Sarwar had married a first cousin. For six years he beat her and kicked her. But after he threw her downstairs when she was pregnant with their second child, she went back to her parents’ house. The minute she told them she wanted a divorce they threatened to kill her. Yet they were educated and wealthy people.
• One widely reported murder this year was that of Tasleem Solangi, the 17-year-old daughter of a livestock trader in the Khairpur District of Sindh. She wanted to go to university and become a doctor like her uncle, but instead agreed to marry a cousin in order to settle a protracted family dispute over property. Her mother, Zakara Bibi, tried to stop her, but Tasleem was determined. Her father-in-law, Zamir Solangi, came to collect her and swore on the Koran that no harm would befall her. A month after the marriage, Zakara had a message from her daughter: ‘Please forgive me, mother. I was wrong and you were right. I fear they will kill me.’ On 7 March, they did. She was eight months pregnant. The Koran-swearer accused her of infidelity and said the baby was not his son’s. She went into labour, her child was born and instantly thrown to the dogs. She pleaded for mercy, but the dogs were set on her as well and the terrified girl was then shot dead.
• Another case much discussed this year is that of five women in Baluchistan who were buried alive in Baba Kot village, about 250 miles east of Quetta, the Baluch capital. Three of the women were young and wanted to marry men they’d chosen for themselves; two older women were helping them. Three male relatives have been arrested. According to the local police chief, the brother of two of the girls has admitted that he shot three of the women and helped bury them, though they weren’t even dead.
• In the last week of October, my uncle’s granddaughter, Zainab, barely 18 years old, was shot dead by her brothers, Inam and Hamza Ahmed. Zainab apparently had a lover and despite repeated warnings refused to stop seeing him. She was on the phone to him in her grandfather’s house when her brothers pumped seven bullets into her body. . . . I find it deeply shocking that my uncle allowed the young woman’s body to be buried that same day without at least insisting that a First Information Report be lodged at the local police station, let alone demanding an autopsy.

In looking back at this blog I have realized that many of the recent entries here have dug at Pakistan. I have repeatedly made statements or quoted the statements of others that are critical of social practices in Pakistan as well as of the Pakistani leadership. Truth is, these criticisms reveal how deep is my worry about the Pakistani people and their country. In this case, at least, I have quoted from a Pakistani observer, and one who has earned the right to be heard. Note that he has exposed real names, real situations.
[To read the whole article click on my title above.]

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