Fleeing Swatis describe horrific scenes, Pakistani women are persecuted, not are they paranoid of anything. They want Freedom also.
1>Face of a Persecuted Pakistani Women
2>A displaced family from Swat valley arrives at a make shift camp in Swabi.—AFP
3>Like flogging, hanging to death of muslim women in Pakistan is a good play of Talibans.
4> Public flogging upon female in Swat.
5> Anti Taliban Protest of Women Organisations in Pakistan.
Wednesday, 06 May, 2009 | 06:51 PM PST |
PESHAWAR: Shop owner Saeed Khan has already buried one child killed in fighting between the Taliban and government forces in northwest Pakistan. He cannot bear to lose another, AFP reports.
So the 50-year-old bundled his wife, son and daughter onto a bus in the Taliban-infested town of Mingora in the Swat valley and hurried to the city of Peshawar, hoping for a future free from further bloodshed.
‘I lost my son, who was a police officer in Swat, in a suicide attack in Mingora early this year. I buried him in front of my house,’ Khan told AFP, tears rolling down his cheeks.
‘I don’t want to dig graves for my daughter and son in Mingora. That is why I left the area… His death broke me. Tell me where should I go and from whom should I seek justice?’
Local officials say more than 40,000 men, women and children have packed up and fled Mingora since Tuesday, fearing that Pakistan’s military could unleash a fresh ground and air assault against Taliban fighters.
The bedraggled refugees, some leading goats and cattle through the streets, are seeking safety for their loved ones, as the Taliban claimed to control 90 per cent of the former ski resort and tourist getaway, once favoured by Westerners.
‘I am immediately leaving the city with my wife, mother and four kids,’ said taxi driver Ali Rehman, 46.
‘I don’t really know my destination and destiny. My family and I need protection.’
At the bus stop in Peshawar — the capital of the North West Frontier Province — exhausted and anxious people told stories of horror as they poured out of vehicles carrying old bags, blankets and bundles of clothes.
Zarina Begum, 40, pleaded for help as she staggered off a bus.
‘A mortar hit my house and as a result, I lost one of my eyes. Please take me to hospital, I want medical treatment,’ Zarina begged.
‘They (Taliban) killed my husband, they slit his throat after accusing him of spying… I escaped Swat because I don’t want my son to be killed under the same circumstances. I don’t want to receive his decapitated body.’
The government had hoped that a peace deal agree in February would placate hardliners trying to impose a repressive brand of Islam, but instead the deal appears to be in tatters.
Clashes have flared in recent days throughout Swat, where wealthy Pakistanis and foreigners used to enjoy the breathtaking mountain scenery from plush hilltop hideaways, or cruise down the ski slopes.
Now, gunfire rings out in Mingora, where armed Taliban patrol the streets.
‘I’m really scared of going to Swat. Whenever I see Taliban, they look like vampires,’ said 25-year-old shop keeper Salman Mujtaba, who lost family members in a suicide attack near Mingora.
‘I will never ever go back to Swat. It has lost its beauty.’
Courtesy: The Dawn, Pakistan.
Karachi’s women: Persecuted or paranoid?
Women travel on a public bus in Karachi.—Reuters/FileBy Huma Yusuf
Monday, 04 May, 2009 | 07:05 PM PST |[http://www.dawn.com]
KARACHI: Farah, a 29-year-old who manages a courier service on Karachi’s Korangi Road, keeps herself covered in a white chador while driving through the city these days. ‘I’m not taking any chances if the Taliban are here,’ she says, covering up her usual attire of jeans and a short top.
In recent weeks, women in Karachi have become increasingly wary of the threat posed by militants from the northern areas who have allegedly infiltrated the port city. Reports that Taliban commanders have relocated to Karachi for fear of drone attacks in Quetta have coincided with a spate of incidents of female harassment. Although panic levels are high, women who have been targeted are reluctant to go public with their experiences. As a result, the city is rife with rumours, and people like Farah are living in fear, but no official action to investigate who is threatening women is being taken.
State of fear
In the past few weeks, upper- and middle-class women have been approached by men, bearded and otherwise, and warned not to leave the house without covering themselves from head to toe. In some cases, the harassers have been armed. In others, they have threatened women with physical attacks in the future if they do not change their ways. Another form of harassment entails the families of young women receiving letters on behalf of the Taliban. In the letters, fathers are told that they must reign in their daughters who are accused of roaming freely and wearing western outfits. Some businessmen have even been asked to make ‘donations’ to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in order to secure their daughters’ safety.
Despite the widespread panic that news of these threats has provoked, few women are willing to go on the record or register an official complaint. As a result, the extent of the threat posed to Karachi’s young women remains unclear.
For example, a fashion designer who initially claimed in public that her clients had received letters critiquing their mode of dress and ‘warning them to cover up, or else,’ refused to confirm details when speaking to the press. Similarly, a woman who was reportedly told by her fruit seller not to return to his stall if she wasn’t ‘properly attired’ refused to discuss the incident with this correspondent.
This is not to say that women have not been targeted at all. Noor, a 19-year-old
university student who asked that her last name be withheld for security reasons, confirms that she received a threat. ‘My friends and I were in a shop on Zamzama Boulevard when a bearded man entered. He told us to have sharam and only leave the house when covered from head to toe,’ she says.
Similarly, Wilma, an employee at a five-star hotel in the centre of the city, says she was shopping with some friends on Tariq Road when a man approached one of them and threatened to throw acid at her if she didn’t dress properly in the future. ‘Girls wearing capri pants are especially being targeted,’ she says.
Moreover, women’s rights activist Attiya Dawood says that she was walking with her daughters in Hilal Park, a walled-off park in Defence, when some young men began throwing eggs at them and yelling at women to go home and stay away from the park. ‘I can’t confirm who those men were,’ says Dawood, ‘but my brain went straight to the reports that Taliban militants or their sympathisers are trying to scare women out of public spaces.’
Unmasking the threat
Dawood is correct to admit that her thoughts went straight to the Taliban even though she cannot identify the men who threw eggs at her. The fact is, no clear proof is available to indicate who may be victimising Karachi’s women.
City government officials argue that the threats are part of the ‘Talibanisation’ of Karachi. ‘Ordinary people, mostly from the Pashto-speaking community, feel empowered by recent successes [such as the passage of the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation] in the northern areas and feel they have a license to approach Karachi’s public,’ says Naib Nazim Nasrin Jalil.
But there are many who are sceptical, pointing out that there is no clear indication that men who have approached women
are affiliated with or sympathetic to Taliban militants. Irfan Bahadur, the district superintendent of Sohrab Goth, says that ‘militant-like’ activity has not been detected in the locality that many believe is housing Taliban foot soldiers who have come to Karachi seeking shelter. ‘Many rumours have been spread to cause fear and it’s difficult to keep track of what’s true and what’s not,’ he says.
Specifically with regard to the issue of women being targeted, Bahadur points out that gossip seems to be outnumbering the facts. Recently, it was rumoured that pamphlets had been distributed around Sohrab Goth, urging women to stay at home and keep covered. ‘I have not seen such a pamphlet,’ says Bahadur, ‘and no one has taken the effort to show it to me.’ Indeed, members of various women’s rights groups confirm that they have not seen the flier.
Off the record
Owing to women’s reluctance to make official complaints or go on-the-record with their experience in the media, the city government and law-enforcing agencies have no basis on which to investigate the matter further. The identity of the perpetrators remains shrouded in mystery, and too many women are fearing the worst – an urban reign of the Taliban.
To address this problem and help quantify the extent of female harassment in Karachi, women’s rights groups are launching campaigns against what they describe as the ‘tribalisation’ of Pakistani cities. ‘We are trying to make women realize that they are victims of a criminal act and that they must speak up and take legal action if approached,’ explains Dr Kausar Saeed Khan of the Karachi-based Women’s Action Forum (WAF).
Meanwhile, Shama Askari, a member of Tehrik-e-Niswan, is organising a group to petition the Sindh governor to set up a helpline where women can report cases in which they are threatened on account of their behaviour or attire. While such an initiative would be welcome, it will not prove effective until Karachi’s women are willing to speak out against the forces that might be trying to oppress them.
Courtesy: The Dawn, Pakistan.