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New women on the block

By: TALLAT AZIM

The first 25 members of the Nawaz Sharif cabinet have been sworn in. It is noticeable that women are missing. The two berths given to them have as yet not been allocated portfolios. It is very much a man’s world among the PML-N wallahs. I remember I was once at a private party in Lahore at somebody’s farmhouse. It was around a swimming pool and the setting, the ambiance was all picture perfect. It was attended by Lahore’s well heeled upper strata.

What was interesting for me, a visitor from Isloo, was that the men just gravitated to one side and talked about politics, money whatever, while the beautifully dressed women were left pretty much to talk about whatever pleased them. It was obvious that women were to be admired, but could not have been part of any inner circle or serious discussion. It was very much a men-only club, uncluttered by any feminine presence.

That really is the Lahori culture and the Mian brothers do represent that. They are just not as comfortable with women as they are with each other. There is the example of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz leading the party, and leading it quite ably I must admit, during the times when Mian Sahib was made dysfunctional. But she was relegated to the background again once the need finished, sort of never to be heard of again, almost.

Another glimpse of the Punjabi culture was seen, once, during the proceedings of the last Punjab Assembly when an MPA was making a speech and the women were making a loud protest because they did not agree with what he was saying. In the middle of the speech, he requested the Speaker, as if it was the most natural thing for him to do, “innan budhian nu tai chup karao” – which was quite funny actually if it did not represent a mindset. The change we need is not going to come from only policies, but also from behaviour. Merit or non-merit must be the only reason to criticise women.

For all else that one may or may not say about the PPP, they gave space to women and recognised their talents. Some of the leading examples being Fehmida Mirza, Sherry Rehman and Hina Khar among others.

It gets all the more important with happenings like the CII pronouncing that evidence of DNA is inadmissible in rape cases. The woman being subjected to rape has to also produce four witnesses in a court of law to establish rape. If ever there was adding insult to injury, this is it!

It should be all the intellectuals and scholars against the jahilia, irrespective of gender, instead of this men or women divide. Because it suits the jahilia to keep women under pressure and under-represented, they pronounce judgements that are not in keeping with scientific progress made by man. It reminds me of a beautiful verse written by Rehana Taufiq that goes:

“Islam ki rooh na samjey tum, lafzon ki ghulami kertay rahey,Islam tau din-e-mukamil hai, bus aql tumhari aadhi hai.”

(You wilfully choose not to interpret the essence of Islam and only read words. Islam is a complete code of life for all times, while your understanding is flawed.)

While admittedly there are some qualified and new women MNAs and MPAs, who, we expect, will watch out for and speak up against any laws that have gender biases or are discriminatory, I still think that there are far too many women on reserved seats who are there more because of their family connections than anything else. Hopefully, this trend will be less visible with time, and more and more women will be given seats because of their individual capabilities.

Much like the soap operas that we are addicted to on television, the Fauzia Kasuri episode was also watched by a lot of people. While Fauzia Kasuri is a name that has been synonymous with PTI for a very long time, this sudden public outpouring of emotion, complete with dialogue and drama against some people of the party, was not in good taste.

For one, women who cry in public for issues like “I’m being ignored”, really set back the cause of women that we are all collectively fighting for. The media, which thrives on live bickering and drama, have really gone to town with this. It is reflecting badly on Fauzia Kasuri because there has been a firm but polite rebuttal to all that she is saying by the party and a clear explanation of the timings of her giving up her dual nationality and the intraparty elections.

Furthermore, if she decides to join another party, about which there are rumours, she will certainly not do good by herself. All the principles and the change that she has been projecting (so believably) will all come to naught and she will be placed among the terrible lota category – that too, for only a seat in the Assembly.

The inner core of the new cabinet has been given important slots and they have 100 days to set the course that they will take. Their actions will speak louder than words. It is definitely not the best of countries to be given charge of – and, perhaps, they too may need the services of President Zardari’s Pir, who apparently has claimed that it were his powers or prayers, which saved the President many a times and allowed him to complete his five years in office.

The Pir, who attended the swearing in of the new Prime Minister at the presidency, has further elaborated that he may be doing some more miracles so that the Prez can spend another two years in the same position. Can one say anything else, except “Asthaghfarullah” to that one!

Even as we grapple with the continuous loadshedding and the summer heat and wait for the budget, which will be presented to Parliament on June 12, most of us think that the new government will make some sincere efforts at improving the national situation. Half the battle is sincerity of purpose and for the first 100 days, at least, we will not doubt that about any of the governments in the provinces and the centre.

Postscript: The verdict is in against the two murders of Shahzeb. Despite their being rich and influential, the court has awarded Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Talpur the death penalty after examining all the evidence. It is sad, indeed, for parents of all the three young people. Perhaps, it may act as a preventive for other rich and spoilt kids, who have been brought up to believe that everyone and everything is purchasable. May this case prevent other people from being senselessly murdered. If that happens, Shahzeb’s loss of life may not have been quite in vain.

The writer is a public relations and event management professional based in Islamabad.

The Nation

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