New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 July 2016
Qandeel’s Murder and the Role of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Army Is Not Interested In Governing
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Iman Sultan is a freelance writer, student and activist, dividing her
time between Philadelphia and Karachi
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
"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
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
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
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
His daughters and grandson had a good
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
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
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
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.