Pakistan’s path to becoming a developed country relies upon breaking free of the primitive mindset that continues to oppress women and justify terrorism. So far 2016, declared to be the year when terrorism shall end, is off to a torrid start with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) opposing the anti-child marriage bill as ‘blasphemous’ and a terrorist attack on a university in Charsadda. The CII is an advisory body and thus it only chimes in on select bills. When it does provide recommendations, many are not followed by the government. However, when it comes to issues like rights of women, child marriages and rape, guidance from the Council is adhered to without question. And then, as happens too often in our culture, men in our society end up using religion to keep women subservient. The National Assembly gets a free pass as women and children continue to suffer. Paedophilia is a crime in the rest of the world and should be looked upon with disgust in Pakistan as well instead of being ignored under the guise of religious/cultural norms.
Furthermore, as long as the likes of Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid fame are allowed to roam around free, there is clearly a problem with the government’s mindset. The girls’ madrassa of the Lal Masjid released a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader. Just about any other nation in the world would have arrested these students, who openly voiced support for those who engage in rape and sex slavery. No military operation can eradicate this primitive mindset. It is fuelled by an obsession with a regressive ideology and an antiquated belief that women are sub-humans. Any organisation or madrassa holding such views should ideally be disbanded. But that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
It is important to remember that the CII was established in 1962 as an advisory body. Since then, each subsequent amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan dealt a significant blow to any visions of the country blossoming into a liberal, democratic state. From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto imposing prohibition in the 1970s to General Ziaul Haq’s fanaticism, Pakistan has regressed. Each amendment further intertwined a certain interpretation of religion deep into the state’s laws and wreaked havoc on the rights of minorities and women.
As is the common practice, following the Charsadda attack, a day of mourning was declared for the victims and vows were made to wipe out terrorism. People will be hanged and prayers will be offered. But none of these actions have any permanence. They don’t do anything significant to tackle the extremist mindset. At the heart of the problem is the financial and ideological influence of nations that promote child marriage, trample upon women’s rights and even prohibit them from driving. A far cry indeed from the Quaid-e-Azam’s words: “I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men. There are two powers in the world. One is the sword and the other, the pen. However, there is a third power stronger than both, that of the women.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2016.