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
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frafique@gmail.com

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Pakistan Shariat Court Delivers Sham Justice in MukharaN Mai Gang Rape Case

After nine years of ‘delibrations’, Pakistan Shariat Court comes up with a verdict that convicts only one perpetrator in a proven case of Punchayat-ordered gang rape. Below is a statement by Pakistan’s civil society organizations.

Reference to Supreme Court’s today verdict on Mukhtaran Mai’s case, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) has joinly issued a press statement.

Wasim Wagha
Insani Haqooq Itehad Secretariat
0300-5006915

Date: – 21-04-2011

Subject: – NCSW and members of IHI disappointed at the verdict of Supreme Court in Mukhtaran Mai case

The National Commission on the Status of Women and members of Insani Huqooq Ittehad, including PODA, Mehergargh, Aurat Foundation, Rozan, Sungi, Bedari, Ethno Media, Pattan and SPO convened an emergency meeting to express deep shock and disappointment at the verdict given by the superior court in the Mukhtara Mai gang rape case today. Although the judgment did prove that Mukhtaran was raped because one accused did get life imprisonment, while others were acquitted. We are surprised to see why only one accused was punished and others were acquitted on a charge of ‘gang rape’.

The Commission and members of civil society felt that this was the reflection of a biased and inefficient criminal justice system. This case has been a classic example of how the facts were distorted and documentation of the evidence was tampered with at all levels.

The group expressed concern at the long delays to dispense justice. The victim was raped in 2002 on the instructions of the local Panchayat. In 2005 the chief justice of the superior court took suo moto notice of the case. Despite the intervention it took more than nine years to come up with this decision, which is a source of concern for the women of Pakistan. It is feared that this decision might further strengthen the anti women parallel legal and judicial systems and mechanisms in the country. We feel that the criminal justice system too is not pro women and is patriarchal in nature. Impunity is the order of the day.

In cases of complaints women victims are burdened to provide series of evidences which is not possible for them. It is the responsibility of the police to do the investigation and come up with the requisite evidence. Currently, methods of recording evidence by police are biased against women; and that is one reason that they do not get justice from the courts.

There is also a need to look at the women’s representation in all those systems and mechanism dealing with matters of crimes and justice. Women’s lack of proportionate representation in lower and upper judiciary is paving the way for verdicts against women victims. There is dire need to start a rational discourse on the lack of women’s representation within the courts.

Today’s judgment has shaken the confidence and sense of security of women of Pakistan to stand up for their rights. It reflects a faulty investigation of the police and the loop holes that are left intentionally to side with the power brokers. The outcome of Mukhtaran case discourages survivors of rape and gang rape to report. However, we are proud of Mukhtaran Mai, who stood bravely against all intimidation and harassment and has refused to buckle under life threats. She has given a message of courage and hope to all women victims of our country. We consider her a role model for women of Pakistan.

At the end we also condemn the insensitive and pathetic attitude of some sections of media, who were grinning at the verdict and clapped after they recorded the responses on the judgment. The owners and editors of these media houses are urged to inculcate responsible and sensitive attitude in the practices of such chauvinistic reporters.

wasim_waghaa@yahoo.com

MukhtaraN Bibi: A (the) Great Punjabi Woman!

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‘Violence Against Women’? No! GENDER-CIDE in Pakistan!

I write this as tears unstoppable, fall from my eyes. The mourning for the five women buried alive in Balochistan was hardly over when the news came late last night that three more women were buried alive for speaking against the atrocities done earlier to Bibi Jannat, Bibi Fatmah, Bibi Fauzia, Bibi Benaam1 and Bibi Benaam2 in July of this year. Though we say Five, the sources suspect the women buried alive in July 2008 were Seven; this makes it Eight or Ten.

Though i do, but right now i am not crying for Three Five Eight or Ten women. I am crying for uncountable number of women killed for honour and revenge in Pakistan since the Eighties. But just to keep my feet on the ground, here is the approximate exact number for the last Six months: 225 for ‘honour’ and 722 for ‘no-honour’ = 947 or Nine Hundred and Forty Seven Only.

But wait, these are stats collected by Aurat Foundation, a non-profit organization that can not reach each neighborhood and each village of the country. The researchers would have had to rely on police records and government statistics, and in both these areas the numbers are known to NOT reflect the reality of the reference. Pakistan Human Rights Commission (PHRC), Asian Human rights Commission (AHRC), and women’s direct service and advocacy organizations show many complaints in their service registers about the police not registering the cases in these matters.

In Pakistan, some say, read it three times the number. Shall we read it 2841 instead of 947 then? That’s too much. Lets just double the number instead of tripling it: 1894 in 6 months. From January to June 2008. However, counting and numbers fast become irrelevant at times when what is happening to women in a country can no more be defined as ‘honour killings’, ‘domestic violence’, ‘wife assault’ or ‘violence against women’. It’s gender-cide.

This gender-cide began in Pakistan in the Eighties with the implementation of Muslim Sharia Laws, and has continued through the Nineties as Muslim extremists have flourished to gain commanding political ground in Punjab, Balochistan and the NWFP. Now reaching a level of urgency in 2008, it puts the largest majority of Pakistani women at the direct risk of sexual violence, torture and death. The ones most vulnerable are in rural and tribal areas where the terrifying control exercised by local influential men is protected by religion, law and the gun with zero tolerance for dissent.

The majority of women living in rural and tribal areas are at risk more than ever because though women were being killed and exploited for revenge, family honor, watta-satta, karo-kari and other similar social and cultural constructs, it was never as often, as brutal and as much as it is now with the blanket protection provided by Islamic laws, edicts and notions. For the reader who does not see the connection: a society that by law requires women survivors of rape, for example, to produce four Muslim male eyewitnesses of upright character to prove or even to register the case against the rapists, is setting women up for increased instances of rape, sexual violence, honour killings and murders.

So, at any pressure point in the life of a woman or in the life of her family or community, she will be the first casuality of justice, likely with no possibility of help from outside the room, home or village.

The case of Five Baloch Women Buried Alive this July, signifies the cruelty, cold-bloodedness and the absolute control enjoyed by the perpetrators in a situation of ‘family’ interaction. Not only that, it reveals the nature of deadly silences and conspiracies that involves such acts of inhuman violence carried out against unarmed women; and, we are still not certain about the number or the names of women involved.

In a village called Mirwah in Balochistan, two young sister and a friend studied in the nearby high school. As are the customs, they were likely ‘given’ or ‘taken’ by another relative/s for their sons from childhood. The three young women Benaam 1 (16-18), Benaam 2 (16-18) and Fauzia (18) did not want to marry where their ‘families’ wanted them to. They discussed this matter with two older relatives Fatmah (45) and Jannat (38); the matter was taken to the family elders or Jirga that went on to rule against the wishes of the three young women.

The three young women, however, were strong in their resolve to stand up to the unjust authoritarianism dished out to women by elders/jirgas. With support of Jannat and Fatmah, they went to the nearby city to contract civil marriages.

At this point, they were abducted by a group of armed men in a government vehicle and brought to another small village in the desert. The abductors included the fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins of five women, and some local political goons. Reports say that the men hit and shot the three young women, and then began to bury them while they were still alive.

Fatmah and Jannat tried to stop them, and were also shot and hurled into the ground alive.

This happened in the second week of July but we came to know of it at the end of August when Baloch Senator Yasmeen Shah with help from some courageous journalists, brought it out in the open. The alive burials of women were defended in the Senate; and, the extensive cover up and silencing that was underway was shamefacedly perfected by the provincial and federal power brokers.

Pressure from rights activists and women’s groups pushed Pakistan People Party (PPP) to take a stand amidst a power-balancing act as it took over the government. Leaders of women’s groups in Pakistan held a nation-wide consultation and released a statement of action titled Declaration on Burying Women Alive/Killing of Women in the Name of “Honour” and other Customary Practices issued by Joint Action Committees (JACs), Women’s Action Forums (WAF chapters), Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI) and Violence Against Women Watch Groups. The Supreme Court of Pakistan took sou motu notice. The newly instituted government of the PPP responded as if it was going to do something about it but nothing has really been done. A post by the Karachi Committee of Communist Workers and Peasants Party (CMKP), an association of five workers peasants and womens organizations, says:
‘We feel that the issue regarding the atrocities meted out to five Baloch women who were buried alive on the orders of a tribal jirga not too long ago is being side-tracked, just like other similar issues before this one.’
Protest against atrocities meted out to five women buried alive

And then the news last night!
Three older women had also lost their lives in July for demanding basic human rights for women in Pakistan. They were from the same village: Mirwah.
They were buried alive at the same place: Babakot.

Death anywhere
but when i die
bury me in Babakot
so that i can become a part
of the sand
that layered the bleeding flesh
of my sisters

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

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