A woman's perspective: Pakistan must not negotiate!

While it is women the Taliban have openly attacked, there is no female representative in the 'peace talks'. Why?

Mahwash Badar February 08, 2014
As a woman, you grow up under the shadow of men. You look up to them to make important decisions for you. Ranging from how you have to eat and address your peers to what you should be studying, who you should be marrying, how to protect your body, your offspring, what’s the appropriate time for you to hang up the phone to how fragile your reputation is in a patriarchal society such as ours.

Your self- worth becomes a bit of a joke – a paradox and a concept that Pakistani women, quite obviously, are still struggling with. Are we independent women who can take charge of our own destinies or are we hapless damsels in distress waiting for knights in shining armours, preferably wearing a white shiny sherwani?

Long story short, whether it is our self-esteem or our right to live as equal citizens of the ‘Land of the Pure’, Pakistan does not protect us.

The constitution of Pakistan has no clear-cut law against domestic violence. Human Rights Watch commented that between 70% to 90% of women in Pakistan are victims of some kind of domestic abuse. Pakistan’s population is roughly 49% female and 51% male. That means almost half of the people of Pakistan are deprived of a voice.

The reason I am bringing up such harrowing statistics is not to report a crime against a woman where her head was shaved off or someone threw acid on her face, since we all take such news with a pinch of salt anyways. I am here because in a few days something monumental is about to happen.

The Pakistani government is launching talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in order to ‘negotiate’ over terrorism, hoping that somehow a group of men from their barracks will go and talk to a group of men sitting in another set of barracks so that suddenly our hospitals and girls’ schools will stop getting bombed.

What strikes as ironical in this monumental event, apart from the glaringly obvious reasons, is that while it is women whom the Taliban have brazenly and openly attacked, and forced to step back into stone age in the ‘Talibanisation’ of Pakistan – as per the TTP agenda – and while it is women and their future which is at clear stake, no woman is involved or brought forward to discuss these matters.

We are to believe that Pakistan, the country that celebrated its first woman prime minister in a Muslim country, has no female representative to be a part of a committee to talk about a matter that directly affects half of its population.

From Benazir Bhutto to Malala Yousafzai, from little girls going to school in Mingora to the polio workers, from women in the armed forces to even female celebrities, Talibanisation poses a credible life threat to us. Anyone who has a daughter or a sister going to school in Peshawar hoped that no bomb strikes them. Any organisation that attempts to create helpful institutions in Pakistani tribal areas that lack food, medicine and vaccines, is cleared away with robbery, threats and blackmail. Any woman who sits and watches in silence as old men decide what the future of Pakistan is going to be has no idea whether she should trust their judgment or pray for a miracle.

It is men who have decided to have these talks. It is men who have decided to move forward with these talks. And it is a group of men who will sit down and decide what is good for the women who are not a part of the discussion at all.

It is a jirga of sorts that assembles the powerful men, decides what fits its own agenda and moves on with the repercussions because hey, it wasn’t going to directly affect them anyway.

It would do well for the Pakistani government to remember that women are clearly not part of this dialogue because the group of people on the other end of the spectrum consider women as children of a lesser God, if such an allegory may even be applicable.

And thus, the Pakistani government must not negotiate.

They are cancerous to Pakistan’s social, economic and political future. They disregard half of the Pakistani population as worthless, unimportant and irrelevant. The other half they want to kill because they think their version of Islam is better than those everyday workers who don’t think that wearing jeans is a sign of direct disobedience to God. Their version of a crime against a woman is letting her wear what she wants. Their version of making a woman happy is keeping her away from education and a life beyond the four walls.

The Pakistani government must not negotiate.

There is no rule of civilisation being followed. There is no equal representation. There is no question of rights or morality. There is just one faction pleading the other not to bomb them into getting their way. This is not even a negotiation. This is a last ditch attempt to making things politically correct.

The Pakistani government must not negotiate.

It must not move forward with a group that is comprehensively against gender equality. It must not silence the voice of half of its people. It must not think, for even a second, that this half will continue to live and breathe peacefully in shadows of patriarchy.

While the average woman in Pakistan struggles with the notion of what equality is today, it does not change the fact that she does not deserve to be married to a man 20 years older than her. The Pakistani government must remember that the TTP does not consider education for women as important as education for men, perhaps even more. The Pakistani government must remember that they are negotiating with people that claim not wearing a burqa is what causes rape.

They do not hold the view that a man is just as human as a woman and that they both have equal rights, duties and responsibilities as adults, as Pakistanis and as citizens of the world.
Mahwash Badar The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (https://twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Anoop | 10 years ago | Reply @Hassan: There have been 2 women Presidents for Congress before Independence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Besant http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarojini_Naidu (Self Goal!!!!) My actual point was not that Congress was better at representing all classes of society(which it actually was), but you don't need all minorities and women to be represented in any political negotiation, which this Author was trying to enforce. Just to have some fun can you tell me how many women Presidents the Muslim League had? How many Hindu or Christian Presidents in this overwhelmingly Muslim political entity(Congress had 8 Muslim Presidents and many Christian Presidents)? To extend the fun, I'll answer this question for you. Muslim League never had a Woman or a non-Muslim as President before Independence. It was a party of, by and for Muslims and Muslims alone. That too, it could only claim to represent only 50% of the Muslims(Men). And, people wonder why Pakistan and India took different paths.
Hassan | 10 years ago | Reply @Anoop: How many women were leading the congress at the time of independence ??
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