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Pakistan Press (29 Jul 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Qandeel’s Murder and the Role of Media: New Age Islam's Selection, 29 July 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

29 July 2016

Qandeel’s Murder and the Role of Media

By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad

A Different Bangladesh Solution?

By William Milam

Tragedy of the Subcontinent

By Najam Sethi

No Cyberspace for Women?

By Luavut Zahid

The Edhi You Didn't Know

By Maheen Usmani

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Qandeel’s Murder and the Role of Media

By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad


Absar Alam, the head of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is back in the news with his latest statement in which he blamed media for murdering the social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch. I know that Mr Alam’s point of view is also shared by many in this country and, of course, everyone is entitled to have a point of view. But I would like to disagree with them simply because it is a murder in the name of “honour,” committed by none other than the brother of the deceased. Some people are of the view that media reported the case in a highly inappropriate manner only to increase its ratings, but then again media shows us what we want to see or simply what we demand.

Qandeel was an Internet celebrity who had more than 700,000 followers on Facebook. This number is huge keeping in view the conservative background of a country like Pakistan. Since many sources of entertainment on the Internet have been blocked in Pakistan, Qandeel became a sensational icon for many Pakistani men and women. She provided them with tantalising entertainment that had been taken away from them by state authorities.

There are more than 100 TV channels in Pakistan, 107 to be exact. Mr Alam has already admitted that PEMRA does not have the capacity to monitor all these TV channels. During the hearing of a case in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mr Alam informed the honourable court that PEMRA could currently monitor only 50 channels, which requires services of 182 people. However, PEMRA is severely understaffed with only 29 staff members. In order to monitor all 107 channels, PEMRA would require services of more than 380 staff members.

It is difficult for me to comprehend that with a severe shortage of staff how Mr Alam could be so sure and criticise the media for murdering Qandeel. Of course, he does not sit in his office all day monitoring all TV channels.

Well! Most of us who are aware of the process of ratings in media know for sure that the ratings system is not representative of aspirations of all viewers. For instance, a company named Medialogic provides ratings to various consumers including broadcasters and advertisers. The rating metres of this company are only installed in a few cities, which do not translate into demand of all viewers from across the country. Therefore, it would not be wrong if I say that the ratings system used by media is faulty from the very beginning.

Arguably, if we consider the ratings system as accurate and representative of the demand of viewers, what the media showed was what the public wished to view. If viewers were interested in news related to Qandeel, TV channels only complied with their demand.

I think that Mr Absar should have criticised those channels that aired private information of Qandeel, which I personally feel led to her death. By revealing her real name and other information, media, or rather, some channels made her vulnerable. This is exactly the argument used by his brother that Qandeel demeaned the name of the Baloch clan, particularly his family. Therefore, instead of blanket criticism, Mr Absar should have selectively criticised the channels that aired her private information.

I guess it is about time that we accepted that viewers of the content that Qandeel created and shared on her Facebook page exist in Pakistan, and that they are definitely in a huge number. That is the reason why TV channels complied with their demand, and aired content related to Qandeel.

Additionally, it is very important to understand that it is a murder, and thus a legal issue. It is, therefore, irresponsible of Mr Absar to blame the media for this murder because that would take the attention away from the main accused, and dilute the case. Since Qandeel’s brother has accepted his involvement in the murder, and the case is in the court, it is better to avoid any unnecessary speculation.

According to the latest media reports, the police team investigating the case has also summoned the mufti (religious scholar) who was part of the last scandal involving Qandeel. Although the said person has denied any involvement with Qandeel earlier or anything to do with the murder, the investigating team is increasing the scope of the case to include everyone linked with Qandeel. Therefore, I would like to assert that any unnecessary speculation about the case should be avoided so that the attention is not diverted towards media or anyone who is not connected to the murder.

I personally feel sad on Qandeel’s demise, especially when her murder was committed in the name of honour. Media should not have aired her private information, which I feel led to her death. However, all of us should refrain from unnecessary commentary and blame games until the case is solved, and justice is served.

 Gulmina Bilal Ahmad is a development consultant.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/29-Jul-16/qandeels-murder-and-the-role-of-media


A Different Bangladesh Solution?

By William Milam

 29 Jul 2016

Governments that don’t govern are a recipe for military intervention, revolution, state failure, or all of the above

I attended a meeting on the future of democracy in Pakistan at another think tank last week at which the “Bangladesh Solution” was mentioned in passing. The speaker mentioned it only in the context of an idea that was bruited about by some critics of PPP government of 2008-2013 who felt let down by its lack of accomplishment. While there are those who believe that the fact that it hung on for the entirety of its 5-year term was a great accomplishment and a turning point in Pakistan history, there are others who thought that the PPP government spent much of its time in a defensive crouch and much of its energy on just staying in office for that five years. That was its only accomplishment, these critics would say, and they believe that governing ought to be about governance, and that getting political parties to govern once in office will require deep reform of the political culture of Pakistan. Some of these critics turned to the idea embodied in the military/civilian government that took over and ran Bangladesh in 2007-2009, which was supposed to bring about a transformation of Bangladesh political culture. This was called the “Bangladesh Solution,” which turned out to be no solution at all.

I wrote an article in this very publication around 2009 or 2010 about that “Bangladesh Solution “on the editor’s suggestion. In it, there was the following conclusion: “the Bangladesh attempt to use the military for radical reform of its political culture must be recognized for what it was—a total failure, probably a counterproductive one, that may have embedded more deeply into the culture the already poisonous politics that continue to place severe constraints on the country’s modernization and potential emergence into middle income status.” In rereading this, I am amazed at my own prophetic prescience.

Bangladesh Had No Equivalent Of The 8th Amendment

But this is about Pakistan, so back to the meeting last week. The same speaker had described the political merry-go-round that characterized the period of electoral politics in Pakistan from 1988 to 1999. The two major parties traded off brief periods in power, each party in power spending much of its energy while in office trying to do damage to the other party, and the party out of power scheming, with the Army or through the President, to bring down the party in power. Neither party had more than a couple of years in office, and neither showed much ability, or interest, in really governing. By the end of their foreshortened terms, the public was usually ready to give the other party a chance to show its mettle, which of course it did not. We know how this ended up—with the Army back in charge pledging to reform a “sham democracy, and with 9 years more of military governance which was, if we didn’t know already, worse, than the alternative.

Being quite familiar with this story, my mind wandered to another parallel with Bangladesh. The two major Bangladeshi political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) actually worked together for the first time ever in 1990 to overthrow the government of President Ershad who had taken power 8 years earlier in a military coup.  Like Musharraf, Ershad had tried to dress his military government in civilian garments, and by clever manipulation of the parties, had survived at least two major uprisings. In 1990, he was forced out and jailed, and a 15-year period of electoral politics ensued, similar in several respects to the 1988-1999 period in Pakistan.

The similarities were that the same zero-sum-game political culture prevailed, and led the party in power to do all it could to gain advantage over the party out of power, and the party out of power to do all it could to bring down the party in power. This focus on staying in power, of course, led to another similarity—neither party had much interest in governing; they used their 5-year terms to extract the economic rents of power (i.e. corruption), to focus on weakening the opposition, and to do everything they could to stay in power. And like Pakistan, the AL and the BNP traded terms of office, primarily because about a third of the voting public with no strong ties to either party, always voted for the party out of power, in the hope that it would actually govern.

The main difference with the 1998-1999 period in Pakistani was that party in power remained there for the entire 5-year term. This was because of another difference: unlike Pakistan, the Bangladesh constitution had no equivalent of the 8th amendment, no provision that allowed the President to dissolve Parliament. This was the tool that, in the 1988-1997 period provided the Pakistani opposition parties, or the Army, or both, the opportunity to connive and throw out sitting governments. Of course, that tool is no longer available.

Despite the violence and instability of politics, which always spiked every 5 years at election time, this 15 year period of revolving governments and no governance was, ironically, also a period of extraordinarily strong economic and social progress in Bangladesh. The country’s GDP has grown annually by about 6 %, over two decades, and its social indicators are significantly better than Pakistan’s. The explanation is fairly simple; there was an implicit social contract in which the governments of either party did their thing (as disruptive as it sometimes seemed) and let the private sector get on with economic growth, and the NGOs get on with social development. That social contract seems to continue to obtain despite the total unravelling of the political system. And Bangladesh was blessed, especially in the early days of this social contract by far- sighted economic leaders who eliminated many of the structural deficiencies inherited from the previous governments.

The Army Is Not Interested In Governing Directly

Pakistan now seems to be moving into a similar period of politics. In a sense, one could liken the two major parties coming together to oust Musharraf to the Bangladesh ousting of Ershad. The major political parties seem also to have an understanding that they must eschew temptations to connive with the military against each other, and have a common front against Army incursions into politics. An additional likeness is that the Pakistan Army does not appear to have much interest in directly governing, being already in the catbird seat and calling the shots on major security and foreign policy issues.

We are now more than halfway through the second term in this present era of electoral politics in Pakistan, with the PML-N government holding on to power but showing not much more interests in governing than did the PPP. To give it some credit, the government has stood firm on terrorism and did see off the religious parties’ protest after the Mumtaz Quadri execution. And it seems it will pass the honour killing bill. But as important as those actions are, it has remained immobile on the deep structural reform Pakistan’s economy needs and on facing up to the social crisis of a broken education system and a burgeoning youth bulge.

Has Pakistan, then, begun another period of empty electoral politics? Will the two major parties (or perhaps a third party or a coalition) continue to trade places in the seats of government every five years, using their respective terms to extract economic rents, but failing to provide any serious governance? Some may say that this is preferable to the alternative (inferentially, I guess, Army rule). But as we have learned from the post-2009 Bangladesh experience, this is not sustainable over the long run. It will not be any more sustainable in Pakistan’s case, probably less. With the country’s serious structural and social deficiencies, governments that don’t govern, that continue to leave reform to the next time, would be a sure recipe for military intervention, revolution, state failure, or all of the above.

William Milam is a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC and a former US diplomat who was Ambassador to Pakistan and Bangladesh, and Chief of Mission in Liberia

Source: thefridaytimes.com/tft/a-different-bangladesh-solution/


Tragedy of the Subcontinent

By Najam Sethi

 29 Jul 2016

India-Pak relations have hit rock bottom again. Who is responsible and why?

The record shows that Nawaz Sharif has tried to bury the past and move forward in a pragmatic manner. But Narendra Modi hasn’t reciprocated in the same spirit. Domestic compulsions have now compelled both leaders to adopt hostile positions.

Mr Sharif went to the “inauguration” of Mr Modi in 2014 because he wanted to start an unconditional new chapter in good relations. But the Indian Foreign Secretary muddied the waters by an unprovoked statement on Kashmir. Undaunted, Mr Sharif proposed foreign office talks on all issues without preconditions on “core” issues. But Mr Modi clutched at a feeble excuse – a proposed meeting between the leaders of Kashmir and the Pakistani delegation — to back out at the last minute. Mr Sharif tried a third time in 2015 when he agreed in Ufa to send a delegation to Delhi to talk about the way forward on common issues, including terrorism. But the Indians again balked at any reference to Kashmir and the meeting was called off. It seems that any mention of the K word by Pakistan – even as a fig leaf for public consumption at home — is anathema to India.

In 2014, Mr Modi was canvassing in J&K and didn’t want to dilute his message to his hard line electoral constituency by seeming to be talking to Pakistan on Kashmir or allowing Pakistan to talk to the Hurriyet leaders. Now he is waging a brutal repression in Kashmir and doesn’t want the K word in headlines again. But for precisely the same sort of domestic reasons, Mr Sharif has been compelled to thunder about the mass human rights violations in Kashmir during his own election campaign in AJK.

In between, win-win opportunities for both sides have been wilfully squandered. A revival of cricketing ties at neutral venues was agreed upon between the PCB and BCCI in 2015. But Mr Modi didn’t allow this to go ahead. More significantly, a far-reaching trade agreement has been on the anvil since 2013 but Mr Modi has studiously refused to get on with it despite India’s long time insistence on precisely such an agreement as a building block for peace.

Meanwhile, vested interests on both sides continue to thwart the road to peace. Despite the military establishment’s lid on them, fringe non-state jihadi elements in Pakistan are occasionally able to slip across the border and terrorise India, as happened in Pathankot recently.

 Instead of accepting this as an inevitable hiccup, and despite concrete reassurances by Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, India has ratcheted up such incidents as “deliberate provocations”. On Pakistan’s side, evidence has piled up of the “offensive-defence” doctrine of India’s NSA in sponsoring terrorism in Karachi and elsewhere in Pakistan. This has provided ammunition to the chest thumping, war-mongering lobby in the country.

The situation in Kashmir is dire. A new intifada has risen. There is no foreign hand in it as many Indian observers accept. It comprises the angry alienated youth of a new generation of Kashmiris who have grown up in the shadow of brutal occupation by the Indian army. There is not a single family in Kashmir that has not lost a son or brother or father in the struggle for freedom and democratic rights. There isn’t a single family in Kashmir whose mother or daughter or sister hasn’t been violated in one way or another by the soldiers of occupation. In the old days, when the occupation forces shot on protestors, the demonstration would break up because people would run away from the hail of bullets. Today people rush out of their homes and run toward the site of conflict to rain stones on their oppressors. Yesterday, their heroes were “freedom fighters” in exile in Pakistan. Today, they are hailing their very own Gurus and Wanis. Yesterday, some of them wanted to be autonomous within India and some of them wanted to be part of Pakistan. Today they all want “Azaadi” from both India and Pakistan. Yesterday, there was no one in India who was ready to listen to their cry of anguish. Today, Arundhati Roy isn’t the only one who is pleading their cause. Yesterday, there was a conspiracy of silence in the Indian media against the atrocities committed by the occupation forces in Kashmir. Today, stories of mass graves and videos of beautiful Kashmiri faces pocked with pellet wounds are going viral on the internet.

Before long, however, it will be business-as-usual again between India and Pakistan. This week a high level BSF delegation came to Pakistan to talk border management with the Pakistan Rangers and we can be sure that there will be talk of talks between the two before the year is out but nothing concrete will come of it. Before long, too, the repression will take its toll in Kashmir and a sullen and angry silence will descend on the valley, until the next time round.

This is the painful tragedy of the subcontinent.

Source: thefridaytimes.com/tft/tragedy-of-the-subcontinent/


No Cyberspace for Women?

By Luavut Zahid

29 Jul 2016

“As a women we must stand up for ourselves..As a women we must stand up for each other…As a women we must stand up for justice,” Qandeel Baloch wrote in a Facebook post on July 15, the same day she was killed.

The social media starlet is the most recent casualty to Pakistani’s skewed sense of honour. The tradition of men wedging their ‘ghairat’ into the unwilling bodies of their sisters, wives, mothers and more continues.

Baloch was having none of this rhetoric as she took over Pakistan’s social media fabric. People who hated her loved to do it, which made people who loved her love her even more. Her posts were everywhere. She was like the wind – inescapable.

While Baloch’s murder itself had precedence, an honour killing of a social media celebrity has none. This is a first – and it’s a reminder that violence against women is amplifying in disturbing ways within the country.

She may have begun her journey through provocative videos that got people’s attention, but of late Baloch’s posts were bearing witness to a new narrative – one that she was authoring herself. A woman owning her own sexuality, telling her haters to place their hate where the sun couldn’t see it – and doing so without apology – was a little too much for plenty to stomach.

It’s not surprising that in her death many have experienced a watershed moment where they have vowed not to let her spirit die with her. However, it’s also not surprising that a vast number of men and women continue to either blame her for her own death or believe that her exit from the world is a fitting one.

The head of Strategy and Client Servicing at a major digital and social media agency is a brilliant example of the Pakistani mindset. The celebration of Baloch’s murder drew enough backlash for the young lady to shut her Twitter account down, but not enough to issue an apology. The apology did come, however, from the company itself, which sought to distance itself from the employee’s views. The problem isn’t one person though – it’s the prevailing mindset in the country. A death is celebrated, a loss of life is merely felt, and what is seen as a watershed moment elsewhere is nothing more than a joke at home.

She started with provocative videos, but of late Baloch’s posts were bearing witness to a new narrative – her own

These very attitudes can also be found offline. Take a poll and you will find that many men and women are okay with honour killings. The people who are sad about Baloch dying also ensure that they highlight that they never supported her, but she should not have been killed. In doing so, they undo whatever sympathy they have managed to squeeze out of their conscience for the young woman.

Beyond a shadow of doubt, violence against women has travelled to the online realm. While it restricts itself to verbal threats – and at times visual assaults – in the digital world, the likelihood of threats finding their path from the online world into offline spaces continues to grow each day.

The kind of abuse that Baloch has faced is nothing new for many women that traverse the digital world. With the slain model the excuse was her ‘raunchy’ videos and the content of her posts. But the reality is that the excuses can vary depending on the victims. The argument against Baloch is the content that she was promoting, but what of the many other female activists, journalists, and even students that are regularly targeted?

Take the example of Malala. On July 12, Qandeel posted in favour of #MalalaDay. She said one female could make a difference and the official account for Malala on Facebook responded by showing solidarity, punctuated with her own #YesAllGirls hashtag.

While Malala and Qandeel had but one thing in common, that they were both fierce young women, their similarities stop there. The abuse that they receive, however, does not.

Malala is a proponent of education and wants liberation for the young women of Pakistan. Outside of the country she is a revered activist, a Nobel peace prize winner, and just a young girl. Within the country she is one of the most hated people around. At a glance a person sees Malala’s message for Baloch and thinks ‘well there’s 247 likes’. It takes another three seconds to see the replies on the message, the majority of which are abusive and derogatory.

We can even ignore Malala and say that she gets hate because she herself is a controversial person in Pakistan (although what part of asking for education is controversial is itself a point to ponder). But the reality is that women who are vocal in online spaces do not feel safe in them. They are routinely threatened. One step outside the bounds of the status quo is enough to invite a barrage of abuse.

The unhealthily popular page ‘Cartoons by Naazgul Baloch’ is another example of this very fact. From human rights defenders to lawyers, the page spares no one. However true it may be that it targets all alternative voices regardless of gender, there is no questioning the fact that the worst of its vitriol is reserved for women.

In one of its most recent posts, the page is literally attacking an A-level student. The dissemination of her images without her explicit consent is criminal enough, but the page doesn’t stop there. As has been the case before, the personal information of this young woman is now being leaked. Where she lives and the institute she studies in is up for the world to see. The next time some overly zealous person decides to take matters into their own hands there will be no one to help this young girl – just as there was no one to help Baloch when she asked for help.

One online post can have offline consequences for women. A short survey of the page can show the most vocal deniers of electronic violence against women that a majority of this page’s actions are taken against women.

Any time women decide to get vocal online, they are faced with abuse and harassment. In online groups where they coexist in with men, they find themselves subjected to constant sexism and harassment. At times men simply don’t get what harassment is and what their actions are leading to, and other times it seems like they simply don’t care.

More and more ‘women only’ groups are now popping up as a result. Women, even in the online world, have found ways to exist without being noticed. What we’re doing is nothing short of a digital cloak, and it’s an unfair box that women are expected to fit themselves into. And those that refuse to partake in this cloaking face another reality. The reality is one that a young, unknown student faces everyday when she thinks that she can get away with having an opinion that is entirely her own. Pakistan has its fair share of problems for women, and the online world is no different.

Women, even in the online world, have found ways to exist without being noticed

Unlike the young girl targeted by ‘Cartoons by Naazgul Baloch’, and even Malala for that matter, Qandeel was already expecting problems. The model, whose real name was Fauzia, was using a pseudonym. Like the page that is run by ‘Naazgul Baloch’ targets alternative thought, the media targeted Qandeel over and over again. Anchors invited her on their shows for their ratings, continued to put her in harm’s way, taunted and harassed her to claim their imaginary moral high ground and then chucked her aside. Information about her past marriages and details of her passport were lapped up by just about everyone. The details were plastered all over newspapers and TV channels – people made memes around the ruckus. It made killing her all the more easy. Had her brother not done it, popular sentiment surrounding her death shows that someone else may have taken up the task.

What happened to Qandeel did not take place in a vacuum. Things are slowly getting crazier for girls online. A new type of radicalisation is taking root where women and young girls that are often seen as soft targets and are subjected to a barrage of abuse. Their data is stolen, death and rape threats are issued and in the worst cases they end up limiting their own lives and are forced to disappear from the grid to remain safe. Unfortunately, though, not all women are safe even within their homes. If Qandeel taught us anything it was basically this.

Before her death, Baloch had said that she needed security. She had said that she needed help. She had said that she was going to move away. She was afraid for her life, but even she had no idea that it would be extinguished by someone close to her.

Before her death she was trying to find her brother Waseem a wife – the same brother who didn’t think twice before drugging and strangling her. The same brother who stood in front of a media audience and impishly smiled as he fumbled through his explanations of ‘Ghairat’ and how he had far too much of it.

The Meaning and Legacy Of Qandeel Baloch

I didn’t care about Qandeel Baloch when I first heard about her. I didn’t think she was a fashion icon, I found her selfies excessive, and I wasn’t interested in her, even if I found her funny and somewhat intriguing. It was hard not to pay attention to somebody who almost singlehandedly captured the national spotlight by making a name for herself online. Baloch exposed society’s repression and moral hypocrisies while also thriving off of it. At the time, I couldn’t tell if this was a good or bad thing.

Now, she’s dead, apparently at the hands of her own brother. As Rimmel Mohydin tweeted, “[Y]ou made a hero out of someone who until yesterday was a punch line.” And it’s true. Overnight, Baloch has gone from being a social media sensation – for all the good and the bad – to one of the many women killed by men in their families simply because she dared to create her own possibilities.

Qandeel Baloch has been compared to Kim Kardashian by media, but while her impact may be similar, there’s little comparison between the two women. Kim Kardashian never grew up in a village on the Saraiki belt, she never fled a forced and unhappy marriage and she never found herself in a women’s shelter where she was forced to give up her child because he fell ill.

She was a testament to the price that is paid in daring to be independent and free

Most importantly, Kim Kardashian never made herself out of nothing after her family discarded her and she found herself alone in a country where most women rely on their families and husbands for their livelihood. Kim Kardashian didn’t, but Qandeel Baloch did.

And it’s not just about Baloch becoming famous on Facebook, taking titillating selfies, or starring in provocative music videos, though all of that is important, because throughout it, Baloch was the agent of her own image. It’s about her working and getting paid. Baloch had the strength and guts to survive and live with dignity and independence, even after losing her family and child. She did this, when most women languish in shelters or fall into abusive relationships, where they are again forced to compromise who they are for the whims of other people. That is, if they don’t return to their original family or husband out of poverty and need, as so many do. Qandeel left, survived and made it in a society where women have been told they can’t live and even breathe on their own.

For all the media fame, exorbitant makeup and highfalutin claims of being a model, an actress, and a fashion icon, Baloch led a hard, gritty life. Right before she was killed, she told Dawn Images, “I did a marketing job, I worked as a bus hostess, I did a lot of jobs, I struggled a lot.” After that, she went into showbiz, where she faced exploitation from would-be employers. “You know how they try to misuse girls who are new to the industry.” She was a working woman, a rural woman, a hustling woman, who laboured to set herself free.

In this sense, she was a testament to all of the women of Pakistan. She was a testament to our creative resistance, which lies on the margins, but without which society would die or be irrevocably changed.

She was a testament to our labour, cheapened as it is unacknowledged and unpaid, no different from maids who toil all day, cleaning homes, cooking food, and washing clothes, only to lose all of their hard-worn earnings to their husband sitting idle at home. And she was a testament to the price that is paid in daring to be independent and free.

While many fault this independence for causing Baloch’s death – the same people who say she brought it upon herself – independence is essential to living with self-respect and dignity. And perhaps it’s strange to think of Qandeel Baloch as ‘dignified’, because mainstream conceptions of dignity – and honour, for that matter – refuse to accommodate a woman who used her sexuality to enhance her identity, who wasn’t afraid of her gendered female body. But dignity is more than a cultural or societal norm—dignity is having the power to make your own choices and stand by them, regardless of what others think.

In this way, Baloch was dignified and deserving of respect. She was powerful. She sent money to her family and supported them, she paid for her sister’s wedding and her parents’ home, and she was reportedly finding a bride for the very same brother who strangled her to death. She did the work this society reveres as belonging to the son of the family. And she knew this. In the same interview, she said, “Today I am capable of taking on the burden of an entire household. But no one gives me credit for that.”

People often see an honour killing victim as just that – a victim – a faceless girl, usually from the Dehat (rural areas), whose name doesn’t appear in the news until she’s dead. But Baloch’s death has changed that narrative forever. It’s true she was a victim, but she was so much more than that. She was funny, defiant and vivacious, to the point where it was almost impossible to believe she was dead. She was a celebrity, but she was also a self-made woman from the village. She showed what would happen when a rural woman, restricted by her husband and family, but also barred by her class, would take her life into her own hands—and triumph.

Her death was the ultimate levelling factor. Just as it showed even the most famous and glamorous women aren’t safe from patriarchal violence in Pakistan, it sent out a clear message to girls and women, trapped in unhappy marriages and subjugated to the whims of men who disrupt their destinies. You too can live with independence and dignity. You too can defy the people who oppress you, even if it is for a short while.

Rest in power, Qandeel Baloch. You will be dearly missed.

Iman Sultan is a freelance writer, student and activist, dividing her time between Philadelphia and Karachi

Source: thefridaytimes.com/tft/no-cyberspace-for-women/


The Edhi You Didn't Know

By Maheen Usmani

July 29, 2016

The night Abdul Sattar Edhi came over for dinner is etched in my mind, not in oil colours but as charcoal on canvas. Perhaps it was the grey of his kurta, cap and slippers as he sat on the pristine beige plumped-up sofa, and his down-to-earth manner.

As soon as I addressed him as “Maulana Edhi” he let me have it.

“Don’t you call me a Maulana!”

“But everyone refers to you as one, Edhi sahib.”

"Just because I maintain a beard, they insist on calling me a Maulvi. I’m not a Maulana," he said, waving his finger at me.

Which brings to mind that when people asked Edhi why he allowed non-Muslims in his ambulances, he replied firmly:

"Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you."

Edhi had no qualms about speaking against anyone and anything he deemed wrong. When I praised the dynamic Mayor of Karachi who had improved the city's infrastructure, during a conversation with him, he told me fiercely:

“He’s not dynamic! Do you know that on Eid, we were the first ones to collect hides to sell for charity? But as soon as others realised there was money involved, they took it upon themselves to collect hides forcefully pretending it is for charity. Liars and thieves.”

And then he calmly went back to his dinner.

The Humble Legend

He single-handedly spearheaded the Edhi Foundation in 1957, and it continues to function as a non-profit social welfare organisation through the length and breadth of Pakistan, providing the needy with medical aid, family planning, emergency assistance and education. It also operates maternity homes, mental asylums, homes for the physically handicapped, blood banks and orphanages.

On November 16, 2009, the International Day for Tolerance, Edhi went to Paris to receive the Unesco Madanjit Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non Violence "in recognition of his lifelong efforts to ameliorate the condition of the most disadvantaged groups in Pakistan and for promoting the ideals of human dignity, human rights, mutual respect and tolerance".

The prize-giving ceremony was held at the sprawling United Nations edifice; I was present there too. Amidst all the designer suits, gleaming coats and fancy shoes, Edhi stood out in his grey Shalwar Qameez and worn out slippers.

A documentary was also screened, which showed Edhi and his wife Bilquis engaged in their charity work amidst the outcasts of society.

As Edhi shuffled forward to receive the Unesco award, there was prolonged applause. Many Europeans remarked on how privileged they felt to have the opportunity of meeting such a noble man.

An Indian couple postponed their flight home, coming to the UN to pay homage to Edhi, saying that they only wanted his blessings.

As soon as the impressive ceremony was over, Edhi was surrounded by a bevy of delighted Pakistanis. Their stimulating interaction with Edhi and the countless photo opportunities went on until UN officials started glancing at their watches. But then the dinner invitations started rolling in.

At times, Edhi looked a trifle tired, but he never lost his composure. Accustomed to sleeping at 7pm and waking up at 4am, jet lag and the constant socialising was draining, but he said that he did not want to turn down the opportunity of meeting with Pakistanis.

Many Pakistanis came forward to grip his gnarled hands to seek his blessings, and said they were willing to contribute to his organisation.

The Lesser-Known Edhi

Despite all the hero worship, Edhi remained calm and was even prone to the occasional wisecrack as when he left an older lady dumbfounded.

She came up to him and announced grandly that she would volunteer at Edhi Centre after her retirement.

”There is an age to do this kind of work. Don’t delay for so long. It will be too late.”

Another instance was when he presented his book “A Mirror to the Blind” on which he collaborated with Tehmina Durrani, talk turned to Tehmina’s remarriage. He asked innocently: "Why did she have to marry that Shahbaz?”

“Why not? Who else could she have married?”

“What about me? I was also there, wasn’t I?”

His daughters and grandson had a good laugh.

Going where no one dared to go

Edhi had no qualms about going where others fear to tread. He went to Tank, the gateway to the tribal areas, amidst fears that he might be killed by the Taliban, but instead they welcomed him with open arms.

Edhi told them to renounce their violent way of life, which is against the teachings of Islam. The Taliban called him a Khudai Faqir, listened to him with great respect and provided him with safe passage.

Edhi's Personal Tragedies

Edhi's biography narrates that the biggest tragedy of his life was the loss of his beloved grandson Bilal, who was burnt to death by scalding water while being given a bath by one of the centre’s inmates. Despite his overwhelming grief, Edhi steeled his heart and did not allow the woman who killed Bilal to be thrown out onto the streets.

By all accounts, the incident which broke him in later years was when his centre was robbed in front of his eyes in October 2014.

Being in Abdul Sattar Edhi’s presence gave one hope for the future, because it was his firm belief that there are no people more generous than Pakistanis in giving aid and there is no place in the world as great as Pakistan.

Now that the great humanitarian has gone, the onus is on us, each and every Pakistani, to carry forward his precious baton of humanitarianism.

Edhi would have expected nothing, but the best from the people of Pakistan.

Source: dawn.com/news/1271018/the-edhi-you-didnt-know

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/qandeel’s-murder-and-the-role-of-media--new-age-islam-s-selection,-29-july-2016/d/108110


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