Sunday, April 26, 2009

From the Deep South

What a messed up country I'm in.  So full of conspiracies and paranoias, replete with absurdities. So many Pakistanis I meet are spiralling into the dark caverns of clinical psychosis, ravaged by so many years of poverty and misrule, constantly force-fed half-truths and flat-out myths. Petrified in an archaic state of existence.  Example: in yesterday's paper, on page 5, way down at the bottom, a tiny, quarter-column story about a young couple 
executed for eloping.  A jirga (tribal council of village elders) made the decision and because the area they come from is officially ruled by tribal customs, the authorities said they could do nothing about it.  The couple was captured by their respective tribes after they were released on bail by local police.  And then murdered.  For what?  For falling in love. That is one of the tragic realities of Pakistan.

I spent the past week in the deep south of Punjab where these types of things happen often.  A few years ago, I wrote a story about 'honour crimes' in Pakistan.  What I realized then, and what still holds true today, is that there is much more to this than cultural tradition.  We (meaning we in the west) cannot simply fall back on the rubric of moral relativity to justify what happens to women, not only in south Pakistan, but in so many other parts of the world.  Tradition is only a small part of these horrific crimes. In Pakistan, there is also an economic component: women are property; or more specifically, sexual access to women is a commodity that is bought and sold between men.  Beyond that, there is the tribal legal system - jirgas and faislas - in which men resolve various disputes (including property rights) by trading women.  The local leaders, the Sardars, who run these tribal courts receive a tidy cut for presiding over and ruling on the disputes.  It is in their financial interests to keep the system running.    

Ending these practices will require a global effort.  Pakistan's political and judicial institutions are too saturated with the very men who profit from the system to do anything about it.  These days especially, when Pakistan is in crisis and begging for money from the west, we need to pressure our politicians not to hand over cash without any conditions attached.  I can guarantee that any money that flows into Pakistan without strict oversight will end up lining the pockets of the very men who abuse and debase women.  

Here are some women's rights groups in Pakistan you can go to for more information:

Now, I know with that kind of a lead up, moving to the lighter side of life may be in bad taste. But I did promise some people a picture of the nipple-head burka.  Of course burkas are one of the most powerful symbols of how women are deprived of their rights in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This version, however, is just too funny to pass up:

And...for another possible reason why the Taliban are making headway in Pakistan, note the following from an article in today's The News daily:

So that's why the terrorists are doing so well: it's all that martian backing.  Damn those little green men!  Where's Mulder and Scully when you need them?

Photo Credits (from top):  Adnan R. Khan, A mother and her child recover in hospital after her abusive husband doused her with acid for leaving him; Adnan R. Khan, A couple in Sindh who married for love, are forced to hide out at an undisclosed location in Sindh; Adnan R. Khan, The patriarch of a village household in Sindh keeps a close eye on his women; Adnan R. Khan, A local Sardar presides over a land dispute between tribal clans, deciding in the end that one family must hand over a daughter to the other as compensation; Adnan R. Khan, the nipple-head burka in south Punjab; Adnan R. Khan, It's the aliens, stupid!


1 Response to "From the Deep South"
  1. Fahad said...
    May 1, 2009 at 7:10 AM

    mr adnan i loved your work ... i want to go to swat to work on a photo documentary need some advice and help please contact me on take care

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