Female Revolutionaries of Pakistan’s Threek-i-Insaf ( PTI) and Pakistan Awami Party (PAT)
In the leadership of Imran Khan (PTI) and Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri (PAT) the Freedom and Revolution March began on 13 August 2014 to protest against the “miscarriage” of 2013 elections. This fervent march initiated from Lahore on 13 August 2014 arrived to Islamabad on 15 August morning. Undoubtedly, this march initiated lot of apprehension and anxiety in the life of many trouble-free, non-political and political parties in Pakistan. The launch of this March was full of passion and devotion. It portrayed a group of zealous people who were/are determined to fabricate a new portrait of Pakistan. Both leaders claimed that, “we are going to make history and fulfill the real vision of Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam had dreamt and given to the people of Pakistan in 1947”.
On the other hand, existing government PML (N) made all efforts to stop the flow of revolutionary flood by creating obstruction; the main roads were blocked with huge containers making it impossible for people to get into the city. All the efforts were in vain and nothing could end their determination.
Women across the country passionately supported this procession which made both leaders to feel very proud of women’s active participation in this revolutionary march. They claimed that for first time in the history of Pakistan a movement had drawn out this amount of women and children out in the streets of Islamabad. Imran Khan in one of his enthusiastic speeches declared that the presence of women and children here shows that Inqalab Aa ghaya hai (revolution is already at this juncture)
Hats off to these supporters (women and children) that they have remained faithful to their leaders in spite of bad weather, heat and rains. These innocent associates were dreaming the dreams of revolution as they were given their daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners(biryanis), music and dance entertainment provided for them, or maybe this dream was born as a result of the token money (which they were allegedly given every day) to prove their loyalty. Their revolutionary leaders alongside their influential partners also had a safe place to sleep and rest through unpleasant weather conditions.
I found it fascinating to watch interviews by some of the media representatives about the protest and hopes from this sit-in. Many women expressed their hope and held on the promises they were given from their leaders to finally end corruption and inflation in the country. Children (from age 4-10) were claiming to bring revolution- what a sweet thought! I wondered whether their dreams would come true but at least Imran Khan has raised awareness among the future generation of Pakistan.
While the two leaders and their political partners were very proudly proclaiming the good news of raising women’s awareness and empowerment through this march their critics held a different perspective. Tariq Babar expressed his views in one of the local Urdu newspaper Jang’s magazine (14 September 2014, p.6) that the women and children were being used as human shield to meet the interests of political and religious leaders.
Some people watched these rickety speeches as a form of entertainment because each day brought some sizzling news to boost their excitement; in particularly how each leader made revisions on their own statements next day. I hope others joined me in my shock when we watched the news where women were going crazy after a tissue paper with which Allama Qadri had wiped his sweat and thrown into the crowd. Those were not able to grab a piece of that tissue paper shouted to have another one as a tabarak (Hallowed/blessed) which he very generously threw to them after wiping his face. I hope this freedom march will not lead to another slavery of thought that has been depicted in the attitudes and behaviours of the people supporting this revolutionary march.
I was encouraged to see that women are aware of their power & rights but it is also important for them to look at the inspiring facts of many influential women of the past and present and build on the legacy they have left for us. The leaders of PTI & PAT have not set a new trend in bringing women out of their homes to play active role in freedom movement. Ms Fatima Jinnah (Quaid-i-Azam’s sister) along with dedicated women from all walks of life supported Quaid-i-Azam and other leaders in Pakistan Movement. Mohtarma Benezir Bhutto has already made history by becoming the first woman prime minister of Pakistan. She had laid a foundation for women to fabricate more progressive opportunities for themselves, instead of blindly following a male leader.
In 1982, Asma Jahangir (a leading human rights lawyer and advocate of the Supreme court of Pakistan) led a protest march in Islamabad against a decision by then-president Zia-ul-Haq to enforce religious laws and stated “Family laws (which are religious laws) give women few rights and they have to be reformed because Pakistan cannot live up in isolation. We cannot remain within shackles while other women progress.” Asma Jahangir advocates for women speaking up for their legitimate rights in this sit-in rather than just sitting there clapping, raising slogans by waving flags in support of their leaders.
Whilst, it I have been inspired to see women take the first stand during the revolution march, I have hope that we don’t merely serve the purpose of the political parties & leaders but they will genuinely get our voices heard as equals on issues such as the prevalence of domestic violence in Pakistan. It is on its height in areas like Pakhtunkhawa where Imran Khan’s party has a strong hold in this area, inner Sindh and Baluchistan. In Punjab domestic violence has been exacerbated among working women over the years. I hope that both leaders will also stand beside these women and empower them by planning an intensive sit-in against this inhumane practice.
Picture courtesy of http://www.dawn.com/news/