Pakistan: ‘The Lowest Moral Ground’ – Women Action Forum


Ayesha Gulalai Wazir is a Pakistani politician who is currently a member of the National Assembly
of Pakistan representing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on a reserved seat for women.
‘ Wikipedia

Press Release

‘Women’s Action Forum is shocked and incensed at the male abuse and threats against Ayesha Gulalai for speaking out against her alleged sexual harassment within the PTI. WAF is more dismayed at those women who are themselves targets of abusive misogyny, and then join the male squads in suspecting women for lying and fabricating their abuse for financial gain. Abuse against political women like Benazir Bhutto and those who stand up for their rights against cruelty, such as Mukhtara Mai, Malala and so many Pakistani women is a deliberate strategy to intimidate all women who dare to enter or speak out in male public spheres.

‘Those cowardly social media users who are exhibiting blatant criminal behaviour and terrorizing Gulalai with threats acid attacks and sending jirgas to her house should come into the real world and meet women survivors of such crimes. When party leaders tolerate or laugh off verbal abuse and harassment of women, it creates impunity and encourages the harassers to become more violent in their threats.
There is not doubt that the PTI has introduced a culture of openly abusive politics in Pakistan. If Naya Pakistan is so empty of empathy, compassion, neutral reflection and is so morally hypocritical then maybe the old Pakistan was a better place, which was at least not brazen in claiming pride over such spiteful misogyny against women.

‘We urge all political parties to take urgent action against such political persecution of women and open inter-party investigations over such serious allegations. WAF rejects all constitutional farces introduced by Zia ul Haq, including articles 62/63. Our message to abusive Pakistanis; Forget sadiq and ameen… just be law-abiding, respectful human beings.’

Women’s Action Forum, Karachi.
August 5, 2017

Uddari is in full support of the standpoint expressed by WAF in the press release.

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Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.

nigar-ahmad-2

This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

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‘An Open Letter to Eve Ensler’ from Lauren Chief Elk

This letter by Lauren Chief Elk from 2013 outlines some of the reasons I did not support the Dark is Beautiful / One Billion Rising / V-Day campaigns, and now i am not supporting Women’s March on Washington or Women’s Global March scheduled to happen later this month.
It seems that the ‘people’ movements are being usurped by the ‘elite’. Even when the leadership of these anti-Trump marches has given an expanded, and so supportable, agenda, i’m weary of this action because to me it represents a coup, not against Trump, but against the current local women leaders of the ‘people’ who have been organizing for years but their agenda/s do not suit the interests of American elite. And when the confetti is swept off the streets by the ‘people’ women and men working the streets, guess who’ll be sitting on the negotiating table with Trump bartering women’s rights on my behalf? The kind of women Trump can sit with and talk to; the women whose interests are tied to the same elite that he is a part of; women such as eve anslers, emma watsons and other celebrities, supported by the acquired malala yousafzais, shermeen chinois, and…, well. Some more is here: dalitweb.org/, and many important things are pointed out below.
Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com
..

laurenchiefelk

Dear Eve Ensler,

I want to start off by saying thank you. I appreciate the time you took to reach out to me, because I know you’re incredibly busy. I know there are much more important people in this world than myself, so I appreciate you engaging in dialogue with me and my colleague Kelleigh Driscoll.

This all started because on Twitter, I addressed some issues that I had with V-Day, your organization, and the way it treated Indigenous women in Canada. I said that you are racist and dismissive of Indigenous people. You wrote to me that you were upset that I would suggest this, and not even 24 hours later you were on the Joy Behar Show referring to your chemotherapy treatment as a “Shamanistic exercise”.

Your organization took a photo of Ashley Callingbull, and used it to promote V-Day Canada and One Billion Rising, without her consent. You then wrote the word “vanishing” on the photo, and implied that Indigenous women are disappearing, and inherently suggested that we are in some type of dire need of your saving. You then said that Indigenous women were V-Day Canada’s “spotlight”. V-Day completely ignored the fact that February 14th is an iconic day for Indigenous women in Canada, and marches, vigils, and rallies had already been happening for decades to honor the missing and murdered Indigenous women. You repeatedly in our conversation insisted that you had absolutely no idea that these events were already taking place. So then, what were you spotlighting? When Kelleigh brought up that it was problematic for you to be completely unaware that this date is important to the women you’re spotlighting, your managing director Cecile Lipworth became extremely defensive and responded with “Well, every date on the Calendar has importance.” This is not an acceptable response.

When women in Canada brought up these exact issues, V-Day responded to them by deleting the comment threads that were on Facebook. For a person and organization who works to end violence against women, this is certainly the opposite of that. Although I’m specifically addressing V-Day, this is not an isolated incident. This is something that Indigenous women constantly face. This erasure of identity and white, colonial, feminism is in fact, a form of violence against us. The exploitation and cultural appropriation creates and excuses the violence done to us.

When I told you that your white, colonial, feminism is hurting us, you started crying. Eve, you are not the victim here. This is also part of the pattern which is a problem: Indigenous women are constantly trying to explain all of these issues, and are constantly met with “Why are you attacking me?!” This is not being a good ally.

You asked me what would it mean to be a good ally. It would have meant stepping back, giving up the V-Day platform, and attending the marches and vigils. It would have meant putting aside the One Billion Rising privilege and participating in what the Indigenous women felt was important.

At the end of our conversation you offered me the opportunity to join V-Day. Offered me money. Offered me to become a spokesperson for Native American women. These are things I am not interested in. I do not want to be part of the white savior industrial complex, and I never want to duplicate saviorism and colonialism within my own organization, Save Wiyabi Project, and I’m surely not interested in selling my soul and integrity for a bit of cash and perceived prestige.

I’m not here to speak for Ashley and how she felt about her photo being used, and I’m not here to speak for the Indigenous women in Canada. Indigenous women in the United States and Canada have agency, self determination, and are quite capable of telling their own stories, and have been doing so for thousands of years. We are aware of the violence we face, and are also aware this just isn’t about individual acts of violence. We expect not only our bodies, but our agency, work, and contributions to be respected. None of this is new, and we do not need a white person to legitimize our history and existence.

I entered this conversation with uneasy feelings about V-Day and your work, and left feeling completely dismissed – much like the Indigenous women in Canada. You might have been listening to what I was saying, but you definitely didn’t hear me. You dumped all of my concerns onto someone else and did not take personal responsibility for anything. Eve, this is YOUR organization. My hope is that you do some self examination about what’s happening here. You have to see this before you continue doing this work because this is epistemic and imperial violence. Your actions are assisting violence, not ending it.

Sincerely,
Lauren Chief Elk
Co-founder of Save Wiyabi Project.
facebook.com/Save.Wiyabi.Project
@SaveWiyabi

From chiefelk.tumblr.com
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The Burqini Ban

burqini

Written by Randeep Singh

The Muslim women of France are being forced to be free, again.

A few days ago, on a beach in Nice, police forced a woman to remove her burqini. The woman was fined and charged with disrespecting secularism. She stood in the shadow of four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray. She was gawked at by others, told to go home.

I am not a fan of the hijab, niqaab or any form of face or head covering. I think they are a form of oppression. But it is not my place to tear them off Muslim women. Nor is it the place of a state with all its coercive powers to force women toward freedom by having them remove their clothing or head covering.

Like any law or ideology, French secularism is not neutral. It is the product of French culture, history and society. It reflects the will of the French majority. It did little for its Jewish minorities living in an anti-Semitic French society and culture before World War II, just as it struggles to manage an ethnically and religiously diverse society today.

The Muslim woman’s veil, in particular, has long haunted France. Colonial France saw the veil as the major barrier to the spread of her superior, egalitarian civilization. In the Algerian War of Independence (1954 to 1962), the French called themselves liberators of Muslim women. In 1957, Muslim Algerian women were publicly unveiled as part of the French “emancipation” program.

Then there’s the policing of women’s morality. This, of course, is not unique to Muslim women. In 1907, the first woman to sport a sleeveless swimming outfit in Australia arrested. The two-piece bikini was banned in Spain, Italy and Portugal and denounced by the Pope. In 1967, French women in mini-skirts were stripped by a mob.

And of course, Saudi Arabia enforces the niqaab, Iran upholds the hijaab and Pakistan has its shariah-compliant bra. To veil or not to veil is a question answered by the state, cleric or clan, but rarely just left to the Muslim woman.

Further Reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/24/the-burkini-ban-what-it-really-means-when-we-criminalise-clothes

The Best Selling Punjabi Novel: Skeena

skeena-punjabi-cover

I am delighted to share with you the news that my first novel Skeena has become ‘the most-sold Punjabi novel’ of all times in Pakistan, and it’s publisher, Sanjh Publications, is coming out with a Second Edition in March 2016.

In an email message, Publisher Amjad Salim Minhas said that ‘Sakina is the most sold Punjabi novel Sanjh has ever published; it is also the most sold Punjabi novel in Pakistan’.

In addition to the Shahmukhi Punjabi, Sanjh Publications now has the rights to publish Skeena in Gurmukhi Punjabi, English and Urdu.

This best-selling Shahmukhi Punjabi edition was published in 2007, and it was the most-launched book in Pakistan with events held in nine cities, each in partnership with local writers and literary organisations. This also made it the ‘most reviewed Punjabi book‘; and, the only novel that brought the movement for Punjabi language rights to the fore at each of its launching events.

Skeena’s Shahmukhi edition was printed 1000 copies where 350-500 is the norm; Skeena is sold-out, and that also is not the norm. The publisher thinks that the reasons for its sales/popularity are ‘content, style and exceptional literary quality’.

It is interesting to note that Author Anthony Dalton’s 2011 predictions about Skeena’s English edition are sl–ow–ly but surely coming to pass in Punjabi, though we still have to see how the Gurmukhi edition does in the Indian Punjab where Skeena has never been published or marketed.

My gratitude to the readers, reviewers, peers; the publisher, editor, all members of the production team; and, the funders and supporters of Skeena’s Shahmukhi Punjabi edition for this profound and rewarding experience.

Thank you.

Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com
novelskeena.wordpress.com

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‘Rainshed Dream’ by Sana Janjua

The purple midnight of Jhelum
crawls over the rainshed memory
I have of you – drenched,
tipsy with pubescent desire,
as if you will light up the mosque in
which we played cards
with your skill at the game- those nerved hands-
and the soul of that fluttering heart,
all mine.
Outside, it poured
and I cajoled you on
with my nascent dialect
that was too outlandish to
your upper middle class upbringing.

A jackal  whimpered in the distance,
somewhere where jackals reside.
The pack moved closer in inches
towards the story, so that the epic

(our love story)

became an unmoored myth
of belligerent animals
that slime out of nocturnal spaces,

howling,

which perturbed your
sophisticated sensibilities,
making me an incongruity to your prestige,

your high end, red bricked house,

heaving its mighty benevolence

in the midst of an anthill, my residence.

Your story had to be written with the
nib of a peacock feather,

dipped in the splash of white gold,

imbuing the stately shades

you have in your heroic blood,

when you so generously grant me
a smile,

a glimpse,

(and, nowadays)

a small touch

so i may burn,

burn at both ends.

i have no where to go,

but to hide in the shadows

my voice

generates on the periphery

of your vision.

My genesis lies in
the idea of the possibility

that i may exist,

that i may very well be born

under the weight of

your rib cage.

It’s you,
who has brought me to life.

Between us, there is a galaxy

of contradictions,

and of a singular realization

that you are the guardian of my imagination,

and i am the silhouette of your past.

All this time,
in looking at you and the passing nights,
I only had a longing– a wild cry–

inherited and passed down the line of
old city’s song writers who feed on
the wisdom and chirping of migratorial birds;
right here from my throat
to my stomach is
but a cry, –a wild cry–
a song bird’s devotion,
nothing to quell your taste in music and noble art.

You have spent days
unlearning the dignified aesthetics
of your social class
when you play Salman Ahmed
on a small guitar,
that tune which had no song attached to her,
no burden attached.
It is a free tune and
we are free to touch each other,
as we hold  each other’s hands,

wanting to kiss the august sky
in the imagined street named after

you and me.

Mad reverie,
Somewhere in the world,
There is a street named
after our unrequited love.
Find me that, and

find me your love.

Sana Janjua is a poet and a playwright who is also the President of Surrey Muse, an interdisciplinary art and literature presentation/discussion group.

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‘Two Shortest Short Stories’ by Sana Janjua

Story # 1
Woman
She negotiated with every power structure till she reached the edifice of their desire. There stood her man. He touched her breasts, shook his head and said: ‘Too soft for my taste’.

Story # 2
Man
He said he had loved her all these years. So then he came, moaning, and said: ‘You are too good at it. Who taught you that, Slut?’
.
.