My father was 1984's long-forgotten Shahzeb Khan
My father was shot as he tried to protect an unknown woman's honour. 28 years later, it seems, he died in vain.
My father was murdered in Karachi in 1984. He was shot dead.
Some 28 years later, Shahzeb Khan met the same fate.
Cause of death?
They were trying to protect a woman's honour.
My father, Syed Rabbani Zamir, was trying to prevent the harassment of an unknown woman at the hands of a Saudi naval cadet who had come to Pakistan for training and was shot dead.
My family pushed long and hard for justice and ultimately it was served.
The offender was court-martialled and ended up serving some time in jail as well. Regardless of what happened to the culprit, the end result was the same as in Shahzeb’s case – a life that could have achieved so much was ultimately cut short in its prime over the same reason – a man's utter disrespect for a woman's honour.
Not long after my father’s death, my now-deceased maternal grandfather wrote a letter to then-president Ziaul Haq in which he recounted the circumstances of my father’s death and put forth the following questions to the dictator:
“When will the sanctity of a woman’s chadar be safe? When will it be safe for women to walk the streets of Pakistan without fear of harassment? How many more Rabbani Zamir’s will it take before we will see this?”
He never received an answer to these questions.
Today, despite the passage of 28 years - an entire generation – it seems as if these questions are still unanswered.
To date, a woman’s honour is not sacred in a country that calls itself an “Islamic” Republic and that was created to “uphold” Islam, a religion in which respect for women is considered supreme.
In 2012, 150 rape cases were reported by The Express Tribune, but the stigma associated with rape means that many more go unreported. Women still avoid going out alone in certain parts and completely abstain from being out after dark on their own. They are stared at lewdly, harassed verbally, and assaulted physically with alarming regularity. For those who blame “revealing” attire worn by women, it should be clarified that being clad in “hijabs” and “abayas” does not automatically guarantee respect – the woman in my father’s case was fully covered with a dupatta all around her.
Most of the women one sees in buses and rickshaws have their dupattas and chadars in place, yet they are not safe from ogling men.
How many more Rabbani Zamir’s and Shahzeb Khan’s will it take before women are given the respect that is their due?
My father’s case was taken up by the leading English and Urdu dailies of the time and a great hue and cry was raised in the media. Today, no one outside our family probably remembers who my father was. The only proof we have of what happened to him is some newspaper clippings. The cause he died for remains stagnant, just as he left it; nothing has changed.
I am certain that while many are raising their voice for Shahzeb Khan today, 20 years down the line he too will be forgotten, and women will continue to be dishonoured and disrespected with impunity.
If the culprits in Shahzeb Khan’s case are allowed to go free – which is the most likely outcome given the circumstances – the situation women face will only get worse.
Considering what happened to my father in 1984 and Shahzeb Khan in 2012, it also seems extremely likely that in the future no one will dare to stand up against the harassment of women for fear of meeting the same fate.
This post originally appeared here.
Read more by Sufia here, or follow her on Twitter @sufiazamir