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No ordinary women

Like any other human being, I am prone to many weaknesses. On the canvas of public discourse in Pakistan, there are big names.

They are big because they regularly write on big issues like politics, security, terrorism, foreign affairs, diplomacy etc. While doing it, they usually ignore the small things; small things that make such a huge human existence.

Surrounded and tempted by bigger issues, I thought to write about the status of Parliamentary Democracy that has landed PPP from the stature of ZA Bhutto to the “electric powers” of Raja Pervaiz Ashraf but then preferred paying my homage to three real, brave, and dead Pakistani women who struggled hard to make a difference in their capacity. Two of them are known to you all, while one is totally faceless but equally brave.

Let’s begin with the faceless one!

Meet Zarina; resident of a small village in FR Kohat. Her father worked for an international NGO in Peshawar. She was a student of FSc. When in 2009, her cousin from the village asked for her hand. She was super reluctant because her cousin was totally illiterate and a local Taliban commander. Her father refused and the boy’s family threatened to kill the girl’s family. Scared, her father moved all his family to Peshawar; but that did not help. Zarina’s cousin himself visited the family and gave them a final warning. Rattled and helpless, the family did not file a complaint to the police knowing well what would happen. Ah; the state!

Zarina suggested to her father that she would marry the Talib, would live with him in inhospitable conditions so that her father and the rest of the family could remain safe. She insisted and the family gave in. “Consider me dead,” she said and married him.

Her husband ordered that she break away from her family but she couldn’t. One day, he found her talking to her family on the phone and declared to his ‘shura’ that she bore “bad character.” And the all patriarchal shura sentenced her to death. She was killed in late 2010. A friend from FR Kohat shared this story with me recently.

Meet Ghazala Javed; the famous Pashto singer. In times of terror, she sang. She sang her heart out and kept the colorful Pashtun culture alive. The beat of dholki, crooning of harmonium, chords of Rubab, and her sweet voice were more popular than and the version of Sharia that the Taliban promulgated in Swat. She started her singing career in 2004 and, because of terror, left Swat and moved to Peshawar in 2009. She married but later found that her husband was already married. He also stopped her from singing. Feeling deceived and restrained, she filed for divorce and was killed on Monday June 18. Six bullets silenced her forever.

The Police suspect her husband while the Pakistani liberals doubt the Taliban. Whosoever her killer is, it is clear that she was killed because of either the religious or the personal ‘honour’ that she seemingly challenged. Nothing would be done and the Peshawar police would busy themselves in more important things like VIP-protocol duties, making commoners’ life miserable.

Meet FauziaWahab. The truth is that I never liked her for her attitude on TV and thought she was merely a crony of her party’s top leadership. She was polemically militant but those who knew her personally knew that she had a very soft, caring and generous heart. Not many know that she lived a struggling life as finding a place on the top in the PPP was never easy. She rose from the scratch. Born 1956, she actively participated in the students’ politics, then entered provincial-level politics and finally became an MNA in 2002 and information secretary of the party in 2009. Politically, she represented her party at many national and international forums and solidly “manned” her position and defended the party during the extremely turbulent times of General Musharraf’s dictatorship from 1999 to 2008.

After her tragic death this month, the PPP’s top leadership issued statements but neither the president nor the (erstwhile) prime minister attended her funeral. Worth-noting is that PM Gilani had gone to Hyderabad to attend the wedding of the law minister’s son in the second week of April. Probably, elite connections are more important than political and ideological ones at that level, particularly when the deceased is purely a middle class political leader!

Zarina, Ghazala, Fauzia: all three of you are no more in this world but I wish to thank you all for being extraordinary human beings. Thank you Zarina for your courage and sacrifice for your family. You did what men of your family couldn’t.

Thank you Ghazala for your music. Your voice will keep warming the hearts of million. Thank you Fauzi for your political struggle. Common Pakistanis will not forget you.

And yes! You were no ordinary women.

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