A woman in FATA must not speak

She objected to the man harassing her, but men accused her of breaking their fast with her voice and uncovered feet.

Qamar Abbas February 08, 2013
It was Ramazan and my best friend, Qaiser and I were passing though the main bazaar of the Kurram Agency discussing who the opener for the Pakistani cricket team should be.

Just then, a fully covered tribal lady stopped and began to argue with a van driver who was wearing a dirty white cap.

The argument was so loud that it became difficult for us to just mind our own business and walk away. Within no time a flood of people gathered around to see what all the commotion was about.

According to the lady, the van driver was following her around and in the main bazaar he kept insisting for her to sit in his van.

But poor lady - instead of being helped - was accused!

The people surrounding the scene, including tribal elders, taunted the woman for breaking their fast with her voice - according to them the van driver was innocent because the lady actually provoked him!

Then a roar of comments started pouring in;
“She is guilty”

“Look at her feet without black socks, she can provoke even angels!”

“Go home lady!”

I dragged my friend out of the crowd and started moving forward, turning back however, to look over our shoulders to make sure the lady was alright. She moved away so fast from the undignified crowd that when I looked back for the second time she had disappeared.

This is the tragic life of a woman in FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas).

The whole city continued at its usual pace, went on with life like nothing strange had happened. The whole way, consumed with thought of the incident that had just transpired, I kept talking; however, this time I wasn’t talking to Qaiser, I was talking to myself.

If the act of a lowly van driver is legitimised with a word like 'provocation', then a bank robber should also be allowed to rely on the excuse of ‘provocation’ when robbing a bank as he was merely ‘provoked’ by the money a bank has, right?

All the sins of the world are all actually provocations, then.

If this is the notion of what we believe in then there should be no concept of good and bad, heaven or hell.

How wildly disturbing is it that the mere voice of a lady can break the fast of these men? And, the worst part is that they relate their decisions in some convoluted way to the sayings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)!
“I will talk to them” I decided.

I have tried it before and they had blamed my education for my transgression. I wish I could have enough power to talk to the tribal elders.

In Fata, a woman is like an object, concealed by many covers - a pactice inherited for generations. She must be kept in a dark, scary place; a vault, locked up so that nobody can access it.

Many men from tribal areas don’t let ‘their women’ acquire education because it is deemed to be ‘of no use to them’. They say they do not want their women to work as professionals after being educated, but at the same time they make them work even in the fields; they make them tend to their cattle, build their muddy homes and complete almost every task that would require a man’s physical strength to do.

Seeing them work hard in the fields at remote villages, it seems like they were born to do just that work.

Pashto is considered the official tribal language and Islam is the official tribal religion but none of this is true.

Pashto is not just the language of the tribals but a set of norms.

Exploitation of the female folk is part and parcel of the norms and religion is not allowed to alter this stance.

Islam, the religion that is followed and should essentially be the apex authority considered when making a decision; unfortunately it is only used as per their convenience here.

If Islam were followed to the word, the young polio workers would not have been killed by those who claim to have been following religion.

I have a dream that one day my Fata will be peaceful again and men will learn that a woman must be respected and not made to suffer under the rule of tribal men.

I have a dream that one day, women in Fata will not harassed because they have not covered their feet.

I have a dream that one day, women in Fata will be allowed to live as God intended them to.

Follow Qamar on Twitter @qabbasq 
Qamar Abbas CEO of Abbas Enterprises, a trading company- currently doing Chartered Accountancy. He has received two Gold medals in Inter and a 'Star Boy of Pakistan award'. His profile can be viewed in the book "Who's Who in Pakistan". He tweets @qabbasq
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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