MQM’s appreciable rally

‘Empowered Women, Strong Pakistan’ was the theme of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM’s) rally in Karachi the other day. It was quite heartening to see thousands of women at a rally in Pakistan, one of the largest gatherings of women in the country. The MQM must be commended for its efforts to support the empowerment of women. MQM chief Altaf Hussain said, “The world over women are considered equals in every sense. Unfortunately and sadly in Pakistan they continue to be treated worse than animals. They are subjected to treatment meted out to second-or-third-class citizens.” A patriarchal mindset still prevails in our country as if we are living in medieval times. In some parts of Pakistan, women are not even allowed to vote and in others their vote is decided by the men in their families. Pakistan’s founding father, Mr Jinnah, laid great stress on women’s empowerment. Unfortunately, his words were not heeded. To the credit of this PPP-led coalition government, many pro-women bills have been passed by our parliament during its tenure. But merely passing bills and actually implementing them is another matter altogether. Practices like child marriage, honour killings, marriage to the Quran, etc, are prohibited by law, but this restriction is often practiced only in the breach. What is urgently needed is strict adherence to the law and that can only be achieved if the law enforcement agencies catch and prosecute the culprits violating women’s rights. The government’s pro-women legislation and the MQM’s recent rally are steps in the right direction. It is hoped that these measures would create more awareness in the country. Women make up more than half of Pakistan. It is about time they take matters into their own hands and assert their rights. Of course this is easier said than done but the enlightened political forces and media can help them by playing their part and vociferously campaigning for women’s rights.

Mr Altaf Hussain also raised another very important issue at the rally, that of Balochistan. “If we fail to find a solution, we may lose Balochistan,” said the MQM chief. The plight of the Baloch has been overlooked for decades. It was sad to see that the government, media and others in the country have seen fit to criticise the US for a Congressional hearing and a resolution on Balochistan but have not done anything for the people of that deprived province. It is as if they cannot see the wood for the trees. Instead of drawing a cloak of obfuscation over the military’s oppressive policies due to its blinkered vision, our politicians and media must demand an end to the atrocities being committed in Balochistan in the name of the ‘national interest’. This is not 1971 when there was an almost complete blackout of what was happening in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In the 21st century, nobody can control the flow of information. If the traditional media fails to report on something, the world media and the social media will. The state has tried to discredit the Baloch resistance movement by alleging that the Baloch nationalists and insurgents are foreign agents. Not only is this the moth-eaten accusation always trotted out to justify repressive policies, it has given carte blanche to the military to continue and intensify its brutal operations in Balochistan. The people of Pakistan have failed the Baloch. The only way to address their grievances is by calling a spade a spade. Acting like an ostrich with its head in the sand will only hurt Pakistan more.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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