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Do not insult the Quaid, please

Ascend the steps and before you reach the upper platform you are asked to remove your shoes and wear clean cotton slippers. Now cover your head and raise both hands in deep solemn prayer. From the most ordinary to heads of state, hundreds of people come here each day to repeat this ritual. Smartly dressed uniformed guards stand to attention at all four corners. The modern replica of the Ismail Samanid mausoleum in Bukhara, clad with the same brick latticework of white marble with curved Moorish arches and copper grilles, the cool inner sanctum of the mausoleum provides a rare sense of calm and tranquillity.

But behind this phenomenal décor, protocol and ceremonial façade, the saintly resident of this tomb has not slept one peaceful night for the past sixty years. Finally and comprehensively fed-up with witnessing such state plunder and mismanagement, Mohammad Ali Jinnah must have wished to be taken out from this house of shame. How could he continue to live in an accommodation which is also shared as a place of organised gang rapes by those very people who are appointed as its guardians and caretakers?

Under the same roof, just a few yards away from the Quaid’s resting place, a 19- year-old girl was kidnapped, drugged and gang raped for three days between March 15 and 17. Apparently a regular practice by the custodians of the mausoleum, this was not the first event of this kind. In keeping with the tradition, the crime was committed by those in power, the guards of the mausoleum. Reminds one of the Captain involved in Dr Shazia’s case and the village leaders involved in Mukhtaran Mai’s case. The guard, who was responsible for defending the honour of the Quaid, had no hesitation in violating the honour of a female. Clearly he, like many others was not aware of what the Quaid had insisted upon: “The first duty of a government is to protect the life and property of its citizens.”

One can see how rape-friendly this country has become. Its laws, its state machinery, the traditional “jirgas,” the police, the medico-legal process and the judicial system are all heavily tilted in favour of the culprits. Every government and every leader would lecture for endless hours but do nothing to help the survivors or punish the culprits. When questioned on a TV interview, the administrator of the mausoleum showed not even a remote sense of regret or remorse. “I take a round every day and I know all that goes on in here,” was his callous and flat response.

Jinnah is perhaps the only unfortunate world leader whose country and mausoleum receive the same treatment from its caretakers. For us the priority is a Rs350-million ceremonial water fountain in the middle of nowhere, but not building Rape Crisis Centres in every town (and village). Operating from the Constitution (now PCO) Avenue, the rulers have no idea of the misery, pain and hostile treatment that a rape survivor must suffer. A survivor, for umpteen reasons, is not in a shape to go around a dozen places, to be rudely questioned by insensitive policemen, subjected to wishy-washy unprofessional medical examinations, and spend the rest of her life trying to seek “access to justice.”

The rape at Quaid’s mazar coincides with the induction of the new government. What they do in this particular case would be a fair indication of what they will do for the female victims of Pakistan in days to come. It is time to send a strong message to criminals, and to initiate humane support measures for the victims. Both the security and the administration of the mausoleum must be made accountable and those found guilty punished. Hopefully the judges, when restored, will fix a timeline for deciding rape cases in a matter of months, if not weeks. These may be excellent people-friendly measures for the new incumbents to start the day with.
Source: The News
Date:4/2/2008

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