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Oscar comes to Pakistan

After a long time I felt proud to be a Pakistani. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar victory, after the one and only Nobel Prize that our nation once won, is a beacon of hope and pride for the thousands of unsung and unknown heroes who keep the lights of Pakistan burning and manage occasionally to keep us in the right headlines of the world’s media.

I believe I speak for at least a significant number of Pakistanis in extending felicitations and gratitude to her and her team for this great recognition.

With the pride comes shame. The prize winning topic, ‘Saving Face’ that was so dramatically represented, is testament to the unchecked, accepted and almost lauded, torture, disfigurement and mutilation of our women that is seemingly ingrained in our society.

It is also a testament to the goodness in some of our own people, in this case Dr Mohammed Jawad, the now British plastic surgeon, often against enormous odds, who have freely given of their time, efforts and skills to help the miserable and downtrodden back home.

Even as we all briefly bask in Sharmeen’s glory, a news item in the media drove that reality home.

“A seven-year-old employee was tortured and parts of her body burnt by her employer in a house (in Karachi)…The lips of the girl were burnt, the police said. Her employer, Humaira, mother of four children, was summoned to the police station.”

What terrible crime did that little child — who should have been loved and in a school instead of being a hapless statistic of our bigoted religio-feudal mindset, illiteracy, burgeoning population and poverty — commit to have been so tortured and that too by a woman?

What message did the four, some possibly just as young, children of that employer learn from the savagery of their mother? If boys, did they get their first lesson in male domination? If girls, did they learn to accept violence as the natural consequence of their gender and, where possible, to also be its perpetrators on their inferiors?

That little girl who will never see or benefit from Sharmeen’s monumental documentary on her plight joins the ranks of the millions of oppressed women, children and minorities in Pakistan.

As normally happens, I have little doubt the employer will also go scot-free.

As we drove our Nobel Prize away, will we also relegate Sharmeen’s film to the celluloid trashcan? And her tribute to the ‘women who dared to take a stand’ to obscurity? Or are there yet voices in Pakistan still willing to stand up and be heard?”


Dedicated to women

SHARMEEN has proved that Pakistan is not only what is being portrayed in the media — OBL, angry people burning other countries’ flags, chained students in madressahs, boys, aged 12, exploding themselves while killing scores.

Pakistan is also a country of some very talented people. Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Academy Award for her documentary ‘Saving Faces’, Feb. 27.

As expected, she dedicated her award to the women in Pakistan asking them not to give up as tomorrow will be better than today.

‘Saving Faces’ is a documentary which highlights a horrible menace wherein women are disfigured by acid thrown on their faces as punishment.

Punishment for what — resisting harassment, turning down a marriage proposal, settling family feuds, just think of any unthinkable justification?

Congratulations to Pakistanis for this marvelous achievement – the first-ever nomination for Oscar and winning of the same. One day this country will not be recognised by its tribal links which still see women in some parts of the country as a commodity, something to settle feuds among families and tribes.

Jubail, Saudi Arabia


SHARMEEN Obaid-Chinoy’s message in her acceptance speech to all the women was: “Don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.”

The message carries great significance.

The great achievement and success of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for winning the Oscar for Pakistan would help in changing the rigid mindset and would allow women to be able to share their grievances.

Los Angeles

Screening in Pakistan

IT is sad that none of Chinoy’s documentaries has been screened by any Pakistani channel on account of costly fees demanded by foreign channels.

Hopefully, ‘Saving Face’ will find its way through DVDs followed by some of her other works. The Oscar Award to Chinoy should encourage other documentary makers to compete for prestigious international awards.

This would help raise the standard of documentaries made in the country.


Other topics

NOT taking any credit away from the Oscar-winner of the short film, ‘Saving Face’, it is time we asked if the essence of its topic, Pakistani women as victims, has to do anything with the international fanfare this documentary managed to garner.

Imagine a documentary on the plight of those unknown number of Pakistanis in Indian jails, on Kashmiris being raped as an organised policy of torture by Indian armed forces (as confirmed by Amnesty International), on pro-Pakistani citizens killed by Indian-backed Mukti Bahini in 1971 — would these topics ever get to the nomination phase at Oscars, let alone winning?

Nonetheless, I congratulate ‘Saving Face’.