Sir: The recent incident in Lahore against a minor girl has once again stirred a debate regarding the status of women in Pakistani society. The incident itself is a crime against humanity and deserves condemnation in the strictest terms. The surge in such crimes is very alarming for both society and state. These criminals challenge the set norms of society and also the writ of the state under which all citizens are entitled to be protected and secured. The rising influence of the monetary status of an individual as an independent variable in defining his or her relationship with the state’s institutions coupled with a weakening of state institutions due to structural and political factors has actually emboldened criminal minds to play havoc in society. The problem manifests itself when it affects the weakest section of society. Pakistani society is facing many dilemmas and one of them is the dilemma between faith and culture.
There are social groups based on strong cultural traditions to whom cultural values are much more important when it comes to dealing with social issues, including the status of women. There is another extreme, which totally negates cultural traditions and stands for advocacy-based solutions without taking ground realities into account. Most of the victims come from the lower-middle or even lower income strata of Pakistani society. Advocacy-based inheritance laws, which may improve the status of women, when in conflict with the economic interests of those who are dominant, often get neutralised. Society, on the one hand, allocates a quota to women in forums like parliament and on the other, leaves helpless and weak women at the mercy of circumstance. The executive, legislature and judiciary all will have to act together to ensure a fair deal for women. The clergy must also come forward and educate the common man in creating a balanced society. The media, in recent times, has assumed an unprecedented social role in Pakistan. It reaches where other actors cannot have access. It can play the role of a pressure group and make public opinion favour formulation and the execution of female protection laws. The challenge is huge and all hopes are pinned on the newly elected governments in Pakistan. Let us hope for the best.
MALIK ATIF MAHMOOD MAJOKA