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Pakistan: Fear of faces

Sunday 14 December 2008, by siawi

The News, December 6, 2008


Fear of faces

A militant organization in Quetta has distributed pamphlets warning women to cover their faces before going out in public. It has also made threats to CD shops and other outlets that display posters of women. A bomb explosion at a Quetta marketplace last week was evidently intended by this group, calling itself the Jamaatul Tauhid Wal Jihad Balochistan, to show that it meant business. As we have seen in neighbouring Afghanistan and parts of NWFP, such outfits seem to fear the faces of women more than anything else. The horrible case involving the hurling of acid on schoolgirls in Afghanistan, disfiguring the faces of victims, shows how far they are capable of going.

There can be no doubt that such forces have nothing to do with religion. Indeed they represent the anti-thesis to anything that is good or moral. The reason why they have grown in number over the years is linked directly to the failure of authorities to act against them. In Mansehra, in Peshawar — even in Lahore — no measures have been taken to deal with elements involved in blackening the faces of women on billboards or meting out threats to them. In tribal areas and even at the campuses of some educational institutions in settled parts of NWFP, schoolgirls, female students and women leaving their homes have been forced to do veils. The messages to this effect have been reiterated through the illegal FM stations that continue to operate in many places. The fact they have not been stopped sends out a distinct message. It implies at least tacit support for what they do. It is impossible to believe that in every case the police and other forces are unaware as to their identity, especially as they have little hesitation in leaving behind pamphlets detailing the names of their outfits. Those involved in decision making must realize this lack of action will only encourage these forces and lead to a worsening of the situation. Those behind the latest threats in Quetta must be dealt with firmly, under the law so that women, and indeed other citizens, can go about their lives without fear in the city.