Monday 6 April 2009

A nation in a state of denial

In response to my artcile on "Battlefront Swat" Rashid Chaudhry, a reader from Karachi, sent me a copy of an article from Athar Hashmi, a Pakistani columnist commenting on the barbaric episode of flogging of 17 year old girl in Swat.

Mr. Hashmi is as shocked as any civilised person in the world would be at the atrocious treatment of this young girl while highlighting that the incidence is not only against all Islamic values but does not conform to local Swati traditions or practices as well. Athar's thoery is that this incidence happened three months ago - well before the signing of Swat accord with Taleban and implementation of Nizam-e-Adl ordinance and is an attempt to discredit the peace agreement and to single out and malign the Taleban movement. He points out other examples of mal treatment of women in Paksitan, some of them involving sitting ministers in the current democratic government - see my earlier article on Plight of women in Muslim countries.

Though I respect and agree with some of the views expressed in the article to the extent that problem of defning a very localised form of Sharia as Islamic and the rampant mal-treatment of women right across the uneducated social setup of Pakistan is not simply because of Taleban phenomenon. I do, however, refuse to accept that this is also simply because of international conspiracies against a nuclear Pakistan. I refuse to accept that the American drones and agents of Indian RAW give anyone on the Taleban side the right to begin killing spree against Shia Muslims across the country using the suicide bombers. I do not subscribe to the notion that since the incidence happened three months ago it somehow reduces its significance. Treatment of this young girl is unacceptable whether it happened three month ago or last week. Whether the perpetrators were local Taleban or imported ones (of whom we have many). They did no justice to Islam or people of Swat and should be brought before the established law of the land of Pakistan.

We are a nation in a state of denial. Though we have always been our best critics and can surgically disect the problems we face - but we have also developed a tendency to blame it all on someone from outside. The concept of "Bae-runi Haath" (literally meaning external hands) in everything bad that goes on in Pakistan needs to go for us to get out of this abyss of terrorism.
In the spirit of openness I am reproducing it below for those who can read Urdu:


  1. Rashid Chaudhry7 April 2009 at 22:28

    It was quite unbelievable for me when I noticed the sad news on BBC (I believe last Friday). I was stunned and horrified to watch the video on 'GEO News' the same evening. I didn't want to accept it as true representation of Islam and indeed it's not. It was quite painful to realize that this act is being done by a group of Muslims who are supposed to have thorough knowledge and better understanding of religion.

    We were all silently watching 'GEO News' and every one was literally depressed. Then all of a sudden, the long forgotten images of Zia regime started appearing in my mind. If you remember, in late seventies PPP workers in particular and other criminals in general used to get the same kind of punishment every other day. After having a few flogs (hardly 5 to 10) the victim used to get unconscious. It wasn't practically possible to continue the flogging in one go. I still remember those images and relevant details.

    Now look at this video again carefully and think;
    Is she being held the way she should have been ( I mean forcefully) ? No. Both the men are holding her from shoulders and legs rather casually.
    While flogging, do you see any reactive movements in her body ? I'm afraid, No. She is almost still.
    After this brutality she should have been on stretcher. How come she stood up on her feet, on her own and so quickly, and walked towards the room aside ?

    After watching that, I have been confident that there is something wrong some where. Some thing is faked, either the video itself or the beating.
    And now, after continuously breaking the news for almost three days, the local media has awaken up and raising the same kind of questions.

    Please let me make it clear that I have no sympathies with so called Taliban. I totally disagree with their version of Islam, and certainly I'm not trying to defend them. But, in this particular case, lets try to look at the other side as well. That's all.

    By the way, in private discussions, friends of Taliban around us do not deny one such event where a woman was punished. But it was done in her house, by small boys.

  2. I read Rashid's comments, but surely the points are:

    1. Whether this was a symbolic or an actual act of violence, it was not in accordance with the values and principles of most muslims as far as I have heard from many commentators.

    2. Whether this clip was intended to discredit particular groups (eg Taleban) or Islam as a whole, or not a conspiracy as Rashid seems to imply, there are clearly many people ready to be complicit in these violent acts.

    I sometimes wonder if those that get involved in these acts of violence (symbolic or actual) are closet sado-masochists, operating under a cloak of religious fervour. You get this in certain elements of Christianity too: not very nice.

  3. Rashid Chaudhry10 April 2009 at 11:36

    Judy definitely makes a lot of sense, and I'm in total agreement with her when she says "there are clearly many people ready to be complicit in these violent acts."

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