A slap — and then some

Published: March 9, 2012

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

If you happen to live in Pakistan and have access to any kind of media, mainstream or otherwise, you would know the step by step details of Waheeda Shah slapping a polling officer, roughly two weeks ago. The commotion that followed the incident may be justified. But, if looked at closely, every episode in this murky saga — including the initial slap — truly reflects the society we live in.

A well heeled feudal woman slapped a government servant to show her might. She did it because she knew that she could get away with it. Had that slap not been recorded by the television cameras in all its violent glory, she definitely would have gotten away with it — something that happens in this country every day.

The media rightly reported the incident as an act of violence and desecration of the election process. But then, it went on to add dramatic music and some crafty edits to make it look like a case of repeated slaps. Our esteemed media turned a grave violation of law into a caricature, which has become the routine here.

Pakistani police also stayed true to its character in this sorry tale. Waheeda Shah slapped the poling officer right in front of a senior police official — a DSP — who did nothing to stop the aggression of a powerful and connected feudal.

Under duress, an FIR was registered against Waheeda Shah, but instead of booking her for assault on another human being — which carries harsher punishment — she was charged with ‘disorderly conduct at a polling station’, an offence punishable with just three months of imprisonment, a fine of Rs 1,000 or both.

When a PPP candidate is involved in shenanigans of the worst kind, how can Pakistani judicial activism be far behind? The Supreme Court of Pakistan also decided to jump into the fray and take suo motu notice against Ms Shah because, let’s admit it, her slap is the biggest issue threatening the core of the country. Incidents like genocide of the Hazara Community in Quetta or the brutal killings of Shias in Kohistan do not merit the same response. Just like the country it represents, the apex court has its priorities straight.

Some women rights activists on social media have criticised the Supreme Court’s decision to take suo motu action and said that the higher judiciary’s judicial activism is directed to women alone because they are easy prey, be it the credit card theft case of Shumaila Rana of the PML-N, the case of possession of alcohol by Atiqa Odho of the A-PML or PPP’s Waheeda Shah’s misconduct during elections.

After the Election Commission of Pakistan disqualified the election of PS 53 Tando Muhammed Khan, the PPP should have graciously accepted defeat and vowed to get their act together before the general elections. But as Pakistani’s, we never learn from our mistakes. Furthermore, the PPP officials also supported their candidate, with at least one PPP minister in Sindh refusing to buy the rumpus that followed the incident saying that Ms Shah had “only slapped the staff!”.

As if the whole brouhaha surrounding the incident was not enough, Raja Riaz of the PPP in Punjab decided to add his voice to the commotion. He first denied Ms Shah’s assault on the presiding officer and said that she was just “pressed”. He then defended her act of violence as the grief of a traumatised widow and then blamed the victim — in true Pakistani fashion — for rigging the elections. Waheeda Shah’s act of aggression is not unique, Pakistan has turned into an Orwellian nightmare, where even if might is not always right; it still wins in the end.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2012.

Reader Comments (19)

  • From Herat With Love
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:38PM

    … at least it got justice for all the people of Pakistan … by getting Wadera-ism a slap in its face …

    Recommend

  • nationalist baloch
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:40PM

    … and now let us go for the Crooks of Sargodha … who have broken the legs of an elderly teacher for speaking up …

    … such zamindar crooks should be hanged straight away … giving them a taste of their own rough-justice medicine …

    Recommend

  • John B
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:02AM

    If a previous president of Pakistan uses the army to shake up business community in a mafia fashion to collect money for electoral rigging, anything can happen in PAK!

    I still wonder what does Mr. Zardari say to his daughters in justifying keeping her in PPP.

    Recommend

  • Crook
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:33AM

    Give her a break plz, there are thousands other issues which does not not attract urban middle class aunties to write about !

    Recommend

  • Khan Jr
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:47AM

    One slap stirs the nation? What about the massacres of Shias, the Baloch and the Ahmedis?
    It just goes to show how simple minded we are.as a nation.

    Recommend

  • Mirza
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:53AM

    A very balanced Op Ed for a change by the media. You are right, the PCO SC has already pronounced that the slap was worse than a brutal murder by the authorities. So what if the terrorists keep targetting innocent civilians, the judges are busy in scoring political points by making statements and not judgements.

    Recommend

  • ibrahim
    Mar 10, 2012 - 1:20AM

    dont be a cynic. At least some faith in humanity is restored by a 2 year ban. If no action had been taken, you would still be grumbling and bemoaning just because you have to write an article.

    Recommend

  • Mar 10, 2012 - 1:47AM

    Refreshing and brilliant!Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli
    Mar 10, 2012 - 2:39AM

    I have been reading writters for while now but i thing i dont get it why dont u guys not bothers
    to write any thing about peoples of fata and north, south waziristan and whole KP area where
    we are dying in mess but u guys never mention any thing about them why we are not pakistani or what we are u guys wanna see us another state like Baluchistan and what all we
    read Hazara of Quetta and kohistan killing or Hindus girls of sindh or Qadianis only they are
    humans or pakistanis shame on u guys ??? or may be u guys are prepaid peoples to write
    only these things,

    Recommend

  • Ali Taj
    Mar 10, 2012 - 4:15AM

    BTW Hazara Shia and Balti Shia are both killed for the same reason, being shia.

    Recommend

  • Sadia
    Mar 10, 2012 - 8:17AM

    @Mr Tanoli

    Your point is valid.People should write about the atrocities in Waziristan.But instead of criticizing other people for not writing that article why don’t you write it yourself.

    Recommend

  • Anjabeen
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:37PM

    A very well-written, balanced article. I agree with the writer whole-heartedly. It was right to show the crude act of Ms. Shah but wrong to exaggerate it to such extent that the reality became confused. I found myself wondering many times, how many slaps there actually were! Islam itself, does not allow for twisting the truth. And the media must not make this a habit. Or perhaps they did not believe that ‘one’ slap alone would suffice to bring just punishment to the oppressor? Again, that is not for them to decide or manouevre. Their job is to put facts before the world. And neither paint a rosier picture nor distort things. This itself a huge cause for the present chaos in our society. And yes…the judiciary also needs to look into its role of bringing ‘quick justice’ mostly where women are concerned.

    Recommend

  • Ishrat Salim
    Mar 10, 2012 - 3:10PM

    Tanoli is right as well as Sadia…

    EC was forced to act because of the pressure from the public ( thnx 2 media coverage ) & SC taking suo moto notice, otherwise this episode wud hv been brushed under the carpet sameway like fake degree cases ( many cases not being pursued).Recommend

  • Ali Wazir
    Mar 10, 2012 - 4:20PM

    @Sadia:
    And post it on FB??? lol No he is right not all victims are equal in ET.Routine ethnic killing in Karachi not a word, its routine. God knows how many butchered in tribal areas “suspected terorist killed” move on nothing to see.Mass graves in massive represion in Kashmir, stay mum.How about all FC boys and Army boys who die, ever any tears shed for their thankless job.
    No opeds by Sarop, Tazeen and rest of LUBP
    Taseer dies and a year later the self flagellation hasnt stopped.

    Recommend

  • Adeel
    Mar 10, 2012 - 5:04PM

    @Ali Wazir

    Not in FB but on a blog. People like Tazeen also started off as bloggers, ET asked them to work for the paper because they were so good.
    If you bother to go through the author’s previous work, you would see a heart moving piece she did on FC jawans’ brutal death.

    where did Salman Taseer came into the discussion? I see no mention of him, qadri or asiya bibi?

    Recommend

  • Democrat
    Mar 10, 2012 - 5:20PM

    plz people stop criticizing the decision, and anyway it was not the supreme court but the election commission who gave the punishment… but there are people on whose nerves, ch.iftikhar is living 24 hours and they are real afraid… what CJ meant was the slap was worse because it was slap on an officer through which 18 crore public of pakistan proceed to chose their representative govt… and i dont understand these NGO aunties who are having sympathies with the rich lady but can they tell us if the SC target women than who were the two people who were slapped? they were males? its the height of hypocrisy for people like asma jahngir who would remain silent for a week and when someone else take up the issue, they would appear on tv and express their sympathies with the offender!!!!Recommend

  • Irshad Khan
    Mar 10, 2012 - 6:15PM

    Whether firing with deadly weapons, outside election offices and in presence of a large gathering of public is legal? If not, then what action has been taken against law breakers! And why the media did not show it in the same way as in the case of Waheeda Shah? Law enforcing agencies and ECP are requested to take proper action. Action in case of Waheeda Shah is well justified and commendable.

    Recommend

  • Mar 11, 2012 - 11:38PM

    @Anjabeen: Islam itself, does not allow for twisting the truth. And the media must not make this a habit. why bring Islam into this and bring disrepute to all the Muslims.Recommend

  • elementary
    Mar 14, 2012 - 5:41PM

    @Author Brilliantly written.I would just disagree with one point and that is comparison with Hazara Killings.while that is a gory incident and should have been taken notice of, this does not however make the slapping incident any less important.
    You can not allow a political candidate to harass or worse assault a polling officer in the presence of a senior Police officer . This signifies collapse of whole democratic process.
    You might as well not have elections at all.

    Recommend

More in Opinion