There are times when one gets tired of wondering when all the trouble in Pakistan will come to an end. I am hopeful that we shall weather these turbulent times and learn something important from them along the way. To understand our inner strength, we need to study the recent war won in Swat against terrorists who are invading and trying to destroy our country.
Swat was under attack and our army went in to control the situation, eliminate the militants and help bring normalcy to life in the area. While our army was out there doing its job, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took the civil society so long to realise how important it was to win the war against terror in the valley.
When militants started shutting girls’ schools down in the region and beheading men who opposed them, I kept thinking about how I would have felt if it were my daughters that were being robbed of an education or, God forbid, life itself. Then the horrific incident of Shabana took place where militants dragged this young woman out of her home and brutally murdered her after she refused to give up her job. Her final request — “don’t slit my throat, just shoot me” — was granted by the militants. It was a tragedy that her life was stolen but a greater one would have been if we didn’t finally wake up to fight for justice.
So on March 8, 2009, International Women’s Day, we held a public rally in Karachi where many friends came out in support of our Swati sisters. The rally went well and we made a strong statement, which, I believe, motivated others to eventually come out.
My visit to Mingora in August 2009, left me full of conflicting emotions, as I was both humbled and troubled when the locals came out in hundreds to tell me that I was the first public figure to come visit them since the trouble had started. The smiles on their faces were worth the trip. It seemed that they got strength from knowing that the rest of Pakistan was supporting them.
When I finally visited the girls’ schools that we had fought so hard for, I was overwhelmed by emotion at seeing our children back where they belonged: in the classroom. It didn’t matter that we were meeting for the first time, the important thing was that we had shared a war and won.
On March 8, 2010 we finally held a rally in Mingora itself, among our sisters there. Hundreds of women of all ages walked together to show solidarity against injustice. That day I felt as if Shabana’s voice had truly been heard and we had, as a nation, fought back injustice.
It is unfair to think that change can never happen. It can, if we put our mind to it and become united against tyranny and injustice.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2011.