Guest blog by Abira Ashfaq posted via the Peoples’ Resistance Mailing List
I reacted with horror, and resisted seeing the flogging video on youtube, only to be bombarded with it later on television. I got angry with my mother who recounted the scene with full emotionalism, saying it brought tears to her eyes. I said it was upsetting me too much. By evening I was a bit more objective. But not really. The violent and ferocious messaging in the video was clear. Wars are carved on the bodies of women. Women are raped, tortured, and beaten to further military objectives. Only months ago, news surfaced about Zarina Marri’s torture in a military prison in Baluchistan. And now this whipping. The trauma of the girl is fathomable as the video’s purpose is to make you fathom what fate awaits the women of Pakistan: A naked and public display of fanatical male rage, backed by an authoritative and brutal ‘Islamic’ state.
Is the fear real?
Is this what will happen to Karachi? Our beloved Karachi — the city of lights, tambolas, musical evenings, film festivals, and dharnas? The reality is that Karachi is a schizophrenic city which contains class apartheid, and a gender one too. Most women of our city are in “closed doors” economic apartheid. There is rampant Islamization– the liberal kind that does not conflict with privatization, and the offensive kind that seeks to seclude women further in Hijab and the home.
This offensive kind is still the palatable extremism, one grown familiar on us since the 80s; the overt and militant kind displayed in the video is what we really dread. Is the fear real? Saqib is just back from Mithi in Thar, and reports of a new phenomenon of fresh madrassas with foreign students walking all over the place. A tidbit, sure. But perhaps the fear of it reaching Karachi is not a remote one.
Why then does the MQM’s hate campaign portray working class Pashtuns as Talibans? Many of these Pashtuns have no links with the Taliban and have been settled in Karachi for decades. Why are they manufacturing a fear against them? You should not need a mythical fear if the fear is genuine. Perhaps, the ethnic tensions find root in other turfs, and they are simply free riding the fear of militancy.
What acts of violence do we allow people to see?
Zarina Marri’s case was never verified after the initial article. There was no video footage and no statement on the record. Similarly, there are daily acts of violence committed by our military, our government officials, and our American friends, which are invisible in the media. Why are we protected from their horror? Where are the images of the bodies they burned? 12 lost just yesterday in a US drone attack. The hundred million cries of the disappeared, many of them refugees of Bajour, locked away in military prisons.
Our reaction to the video
We are offered glimpses of the devastation of suicide bombing, and now this. The reaction to the flogging video is rightfully one of anguish and outrage. It is just that our conscience is shocked, and we are moved into action. But who is the culprit here and against whom are we protesting? Which enemy are we condoning, and which one are we villainizing? Can it be that we are being asked to villanize the enemy of the United States? — The need for which is dreadfully personalized by the ugly image of a woman being beaten in broad daylight – the imagery of a rogue state sanctioning a gang rape.
Our demands vary – some demand that the floggers be tried, that our administration renege on the Swat deal, the court stamp it as unconstitutional, and some that the military take stiff and expedient action. Many of us question the legality of US drone attacks on our sovereign nation, but are not angered enough to rally against them. Many of us regret the plight of refugees from FATA, and the civilian losses in the war in FATA. We sympathize with the disappeared persons DHR (Amina Janjua’s group) advocates for, but we are not joining in the cause. Many of us get turned off because reactionary forces also support the missing persons. But does that make an illegal detention any less illegal?
Very few of us are asking for a heavier bombing campaign in FATA. Is this video supposed to sway heart and minds to that — a genocide of the people there? Are we supposed to be enraged by the suicide bombers flouting our powerlessness with daily attacks on police and other state apparatus? Nine para military officers were killed in a SB in Islamabad today. We are already adrift a river of war. Which current will we ride after the flogging?
The United States has an interest in the region, and in Pakistan. How does militancy service or disservice U.S.’s geo-political economic interests? (Say even the innocuous one like coal in Thar). Who is funding and politically backing the militants? If we are truly fighting the militants, then why are we not working to cut off their funding and their radio signals? We know a portion of the funding is from crime and weapons trade, but who is interested in a contorted Sharia rule in FATA, and how does it serve their ideological or economic purposes? What news are we being distracted from? What news are we being shown and is it to build consensus on the war?
Endless joining of dots. Endless.
What rights then are we fighting for?
Shouldn’t we then just identify with the oppressed? The Pashtuns who are targeted for ethnic violence, the missing persons, the Zarina Marris, the Moazzam Begs, the Afia Siddiquis,the women of Swat, the women of Baluchistan (12,000 disappeared Baluchis), Bajour, Waziristan — the hundreds of women who walked miles to refugee camps last fall to escape shelling in their villages in Bajaur — the potential victims of this neo vice and virtue committee emerging in Swat and elsewhere. The women of Karachi, the cities, the villages…
Asma Jahangir is right that this is a flogging on all of us. We need to ultimately build a feminist movement, which is strongly anti imperialist, anti military, and pro independent judiciary. George’s wife, Kiran, was present at the flogging protest at KPC today a friend tells me. It is not surprising that she was upset with the anti American sloganeering, and that issues should not be conflated. Its time we conflated issues. The analysis does not stop at the flogging.