International Women’s day, Pakistan, and Burundi: Urdu Op-ed

Op-ed published in Urdu Times on March 13, 2013.  The PDF file is in Urdu Script, and English synopsis is also appended below. To read in Urdu click the link to file:

Khawateen ka Alami Din, Pakistan aur Burundi

Synopsis of Munir Pervaiz Op-ed published at Urdu Times, NY, UK, Canada on March 13, 2013:
International Women’s day, Pakistan and Burundi

The Op-ed discusses the events that took place in Pakistan on the International day of Women and also acknowledges various awards given to Malala and her friends along with Sherry Rehman and other leading women of Pakistan.

Women’s rights struggle in Pakistan has a very long history that has continued since the inception of Pakistan. Several leading women who have who been the activists for this cause have included writers like Hajra Mastoor, Khadija Mastoor, Fehmida Riaz, Zahida Hina , Kishwer Naheed, Mlaiha Lodhi, Sherry Rehamn, and others. Canadian Urdu writer Nasim Syed has also followed in their footsteps. These writers have been the leading lights in the struggle for seeking rights for women, dignity, equality, and freedom from societal, religious, patriarchal oppression, and tyranny including violence.

It quotes from the poems and writings of Fehmida Riaz, Kishwer Naheed, and Nasim syed and mentions that the women writers and their supporters not only face serious censorship, and violent repression, but many women have also been forcibly paraded naked on the streets in the name of honour and faced accusations of heresy.

The article mentions that women demanding their rights and their supporters have been called shameless and immoral by conservative writers and oppressors. It provides quotations from an article written by a Canadian Muslim woman who has used very strong language against those progressive and liberal writers who condemned the murder of a sixteen year old Pakistani girl by her own father and brother in Canada because the young girl was refusing to wear Hijab under compulsion by her family. This conservative author claims that those Muslim authors who raise their voice against such oppression are supported by Hindus in maligning Islam, and that such liberal authors do so only to gain cheap limelight and sometimes go even beyond the Hindus in maligning Islam. It suggests that such liberal writers are equally dangerous as any illiterate Mullah. The  quoted author argues that liberal writers weeping on the murder of this young Muslim Pakistani girl, will never be able to comprehend the pain of the father who murdered his own daughter for unknown reasons.

Quoting such examples, the article shows the extreme difference of opinion and thought, that exists between the progressive and liberal Pakistani writers and the arch  conservative people of the society, when it comes to the struggle of achieving fundamental rights of Pakistani and Muslim women.

While the progressive writers struggle to release the women from the oppression that is imposed on Muslim women in the name of religion, the conservative and Islamist writers try to convince the women that their religion gives them all the rights that they need.

The article also quotes verses from Pakistani poet Faiz, who said that violent accusations and name calling has always been the destiny of those who raise their voices for fundamental human rights.

The op-ed recognizes some peripheral freedoms that have been granted to women in Pakistan over the last few years, and also mentions some positive changes in the laws for protection of women. It also argues that at present many such changes can only be considered as symbolic at best. It quotes the poet Faiz who suggests that even such minor signs of spring convey some  hope.

The article points out towards various reports that suggest that Pakistan is behind the countries like Burundi in the matter of regular paid employment for women, and that it is also at a very low level on human development index for women as compared to various underdeveloped countries.

Struggles for the rights of women in Pakistan and Islamic societies are bitter, arduous, and long, and require the support of all the members of the society on an ongoing basis.