Shah Farman, the controversial minister of information in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and an important member of the provincial PTI leadership, has said that the rape of minors in our society is a result of the “rapid adoption of western culture.” In a debate in the provincial assembly where lawmakers lamented the poor performance of the K-P police in finding leads into the rape and murder of a minor in Mardan some weeks back, Shah Farman insisted that a large number of such cases take place in western countries. “We are following the culture of these countries, as a result, such issues are emerging,” he said, as he had the chutzpah to accuse lawmakers of “failing in their responsibility towards society.” His advice was that they should try and find a solution to the problem “rather than just passing resolutions in the house.”
What is worrisome is that Shah Farman isn’t some random member of the house. This is the spokesperson of the PTI-led government of KhyberPakhtunkhwa. What he says is a reflection of the policies of the provincial government. What is even more worrisome is that no one from the government has come forward to clarify or contradict these remarks.
It was left to another PTI lawmaker, Dr Haider Ali, who took strong exception to Shah Farman’s comments, noting that in western countries rapists and murderers are also taken to task. “In the West, you cannot play with the ladies and children like this. Their legal system is very strong and the people involved are arrested and punished, unlike in ours where an SHO is suspended and then the matter gets covered up,” he lashed out, adding that local family and religious traditions used to prevent such incidents, but both of these institutions have now weakened and there was a need to find a new solution to these issues. The inability of the much-trumpeted K-P police to find the rapist and killer of the Mardan minor is one thing. The fact that the government has instead tried to cover up its inefficiencies is another.
Let us face the facts. Shah Farman is misogynist. Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.
He is not alone. There are hundreds such men in our corridors of power. Who can forget the comments of our beloved commando general who said that women get raped so that they can get immigration to Canada? How do we deal with the attitudes of such people?
Shah Farman is not new to controversy. He was sacked in 2014 for poor performance only to be brought back recently. It seems the PTI has problems finding good spokespersons. The government has changed its information minister for the fourth time since assuming power in 2013. In 2014, Shah Farman was sacked owing to his ‘poor performance.’ Now he is back. In 2017, as K-P minister for public health engineering Shah Farman insulted his fellow female lawmaker Nighat Orakzai on the floor of K-P Assembly. When Orakzai interrupted his address on the floor of the house to allege that a significant amount of development funds were diverted to Nowshera (Chief Minister Pervez Khattak’s constituency) Shah Farman shouted at her and asked her to stay silent in a very insulting manner. No action was taken against him by his party.
The problem isn’t the party. It’s the attitude of Pakistani men. For many, women aren’t something to worry about. Whether it’s silencing them on the floor of the house or covering up a rape, it seems the same to them. This is the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl, who was coaxed away from her home in Mardan and her body was found dumped in a field a day later. For these characters, it isn’t important enough.
The K-P Assembly was told by PPP lawmaker Nighat Orakzai, who opened the discussion on the topic, that she had travelled to Mardan and met with the girl’s family. She added that she had also spoken to officials of the Mardan police.
Orakzai said that the Mardan District Police Officer Dr Mian Saeed and his team had tried their best to cover it up. After the issue was hyped, they held a press conference and admitted rape in the case. If we keep on treating rape as a minor issue, how will we progress as a country?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2018.
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