August 8, 2016
BY Umer Ali
A society’s mindset – the criminal’s best defence team
Qandeel Baloch was killed – for exposing too much of her body, which she owned, and making money out of it, she was strangled to death by none other than her own brother. He killed her by the same hands, with which he took money from Qandeel. The same money that he used to buy more drugs and fulfill his ‘needs’. The same money which Qandeel earned by exposing her body – acting exactly according to her own wishes. The same act which breached the honor of his drug addict brother, and to restore it, he must had to kill Qandeel.
Qandeel is dead. For pushing the limits that this patriarchal society has set upon women, she had to be taught a lesson. For breaking the stereotypes that even women of our society have enforced upon themselves, there was no other way out than to kill her. For rising above the standards set by the mighty and powerful, she had to be brought down. For exposing the animal, hidden under the garb of religion and piety, she was sent away – never to come back.
While many mourn her dead, there is a terribly vast majority which celebrated it. Some celebrated subtly, the others did it openly. Mufti Qavi, the cleric who went for a friendly meeting with Qandeel took the lead. Condemning her murder, he declared it a lesson for all those women who wanted to “insult the clerics.”
The interesting narrative, which emerged after her death was, “although her murder is wrong, her brother was left with no choice.” One of the leading “political analysts”, defender of the pious and leader of the leaders took this view on a national TV. Often remembered as “Caliph” in the related circles, he lamented the situation which Qandeel had put her family into.
Taking a woman’s life is not even worth unconditional condemnation here. A couple of weeks back, Khamis, an activist from Lahore, while taking an evening walk, saw a man dragging a woman on the road. Upon confronting him, the man revealed that the woman was his wife and Khamis had no right to interfere in their business. Saying that, the man tried to stab his wife, which prompted Khamis to save her, leading into a fight.
However, police was called and the man was taken into custody, while the woman was asked to record her statement. When informed about the event, I called the local ASI to inquire about the whole incident. As he assured me that the man was taken into custody and investigations were going on, he said that the police had to be careful, since it’s their personal matter. Surprised, I told the ASI that it was no more a personal matter after the man was caught stabbing his wife. “In such matters, we have to proceed with caution because we fear families might be destroyed,” he asserted. I tried reasoning with him that in such a situation, where a woman’s life is threatened, worrying about her family should be the least of your worries. He went on to even suspect the character of the woman.
Unfortunately, he represents not only himself, but a prevailing discourse in the society, under which sanctity of a woman’s life is far lesser than that of institutions like family and marriage.
Another unfortunate response that the right wingers produce to the feminist argument of letting women do whatever they want to do with their bodies is to get personal. If one defends what Qandeel Baloch did for a living, there is a storm of insults, abuses and threats, followed by “if you support her, ask your sister to do the same” rhetoric.
It is indeed mind-boggling that how the idea of freedom of choice has been deliberately misinterpreted by a certain sections. Freedom of choice simply means for a woman to do whatever she likes, wear whatever clothes she wants, and earn her living by any mean she deems right. It doesn’t mean that by supporting Qandeel’s right to choice, one must force his sister to do the same. To put it in better perspective, I shouldn’t dictate my sister to do anything and whatever she does, I must let her do it, even if I personally dislike it.
Such a simple idea has been distorted to such an extent that supporting what Qandeel automatically means I must dress my sister like that. A friend and colleague of mine had to face the very same situation when she defended Qandeel. She was immediately asked to send her pictures in scanty clothes, which of course she refused.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall brilliantly described this idea as, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
In Pakistan, it is the opposite for women, who are not allowed this fundamental right – even if she had to be killed. It’s a risky business being an independent, care-free woman in Pakistan, which Nazish Brohi, in one his recent columns beautifully described by the Indian song, “Kaanton se kheench k yeh aanchal.” She rightly said that for a woman in Pakistan, the desire to live freely comes with the will to die for it.