By: Maryam Usman
ISLAMABAD: There’s something welcomingly different about “Kari”, a play staged at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts on Thursday. Its gripping plot entertains audiences as well as raises awareness, without sounding overly preachy, about a pressing human rights issue.
The play is part of a commitment between Ajoka Theatre and Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP) to fight social injustice and violence against women and other vulnerable groups of society. Meant for rural communities where the banned practice of honour killing is still prevalent, the play has been performed in parts of Interior Sindh and Southern Punjab to sensitise local women about their rights and to raise awareness on the issue.
Set in a village, the play revolves around a panchayat of tribal men, sitting in judgment of their village women who have been accused of violating the tribal code of honour. When one of the sardars (M Qaiser) murders a rival over personal enmity, he accuses the victim of having illicit relations with a woman of his own tribe. On his behest, the other sardars start looking for the accused woman to avoid legal proceedings.
Meanwhile, a cobbler (Zubair Sajid) spots another couple in an open field and reports to the sardars, who then order the tribal men to look for this couple as well. To protect her lover, the girl, Mahnoor (Sana Sehar) tells the sardars that she is the woman they had been looking for. Upon her confession, the panchayat declares her kari and orders her killed. However, a group of local women assist her in eloping with her lover, Fareed (Sohail Tariq).
Interwoven in the main plot are the stories of women who have fallen victim to the honour crimes of “Swara”, “Vani” or “Zhag” at different time periods. The play ends on a positive note as the women approach the panchayat and dub themselves kari in defiance.
“I really like how so many issues have been highlighted in just one play, which is the beauty of it,” commented Myra, an audience member. Meanwhile, another audience member, Haroon, enjoyed the music throughout the performance. The folk musicians (Kamran and Thomas Khokhar) blended soft notes of tabla and harmonium with poignant lyrics.
The performance was an activity of CAMP’s advocacy campaign on honour crimes and unjust practices against women which will highlight the unfair treatment of women under the Rule of Law Programming in Pakistan project.
Elaborating on the success of the play in various affected communities, the play’s director, Madeeha Gauhar said it has given local women an opportunity to air issues. “Thanks to the media, the awareness on such issues is increasing now more than ever,” she said. She further underlined the need to revisit the legal system of the country to dismantle the structures that have led to patriarchy. Moreover, she cited confusion over the Pakistan Penal Code, jirgas and punchayat and Shariah in the country with regard to the unfair treatment towards women.