From rape to honor killing, to domestic violence, to harassment to verbal abuse, to name calling, to body shaming, to slut shaming, it is all her fault.
She asked for it.
The physical demonstration of these words was witnessed when recently Khawaja Asif, a federal minister of the ruling party, derogatorily called Shireen Mazari, his political opponent, “Tractor Trolley” for protesting against his lofty claims of no load shedding during Seher and Iftar. While the speaker of National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, was endorsing the remarks on a woman’s physicality and insinuating that she asked for it, the rest of the members in the house egged Khawaja Asif on and shouted in chorus: “Be quiet, Auntie”.
The practice of resorting to political abuse bears a history of decades in Pakistan. From PPP to PMLN to JUIF to MQM to PTI, everyone enjoys its own share in aggravating and fueling the culture of political vilification. The agreement or disagreement over each party’s share in breeding this demon can be debated but, it is beyond the shadow of an ounce of doubt that PMLN remains an unbeatable champion.
As those belong to the 80s and 90s era can vividly remember the vicious and disgraceful character assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto by PMLN. The smear campaign, that included pamphlets of semi-nude photos of Benazir Bhutto, was led by none other than Nawaz Sharif himself. Just not that, who can forget the meticulously crafted fallacious and abominable campaign against Imran Khan, who was a newly emerging, though still not a threatening, political opponent of Nawaz Sharif? How can one not remember Nawaz Sharif’s malicious movement to drag Jemima Khan, a former wife of Imran Khan, into his political rivalry that resulted in the break-up of his marriage? It is a vintage mentality of PMLN – that flows down from top to bottom – to hide behind women to assault and blackmail its political opponents.
And it remains incurable to the date.
The mindset that governs citizenry ultimately transforms or translates into a national ideology. Our social edifice builds our national structure of vice or virtue and bestows it the validity through vote.
Kill her, it elevates our honor. Abuse her, it contents our ego. Bury her alive, it upholds our traditions. Burn her alive, it dignifies our family status. Beat her, it pleases our manhood. Ours is a society whose norms revolves around fixing women into the molds that befit its ideals. Because our society bears a mindset that women are the sole reason behind all the evil in existence. Because there is a unanimous agreement over women oppression. Because there is a tacit and vocal acceptance in the society of women objectification that resonates from street-corners to power-halls.
The members of our political parties are the poster boys of this patriarchal mindset that rules our society. It is asinine and criminal of us to elect these misogynist, patriarchal and sick minds as custodians of women rights.
The fault doesn’t lie with them, the fault lies within us.
It wasn’t Khawaja Asif (alone) who was standing there, it was all those who voted for him were standing there too – lurking behind his shadow. Khawaja Asif was given the license of mouthing the verbal abuse wrapped in what it is called ‘mandate’. He was given the authority by us through the ballot to stand under the roof of a sacred place and desecrate it. He was given the right by us to shamefully disrespect women, not to feel any remorse, not to apologize and not to face any accountability. He was gleefully given the approval by us to pelt the profanities and to get away with it. All those who voted for Khawaja Asif are not only complicit in this contemptuous act but, they also indirectly endorsed his derisive comments.
The eyes will see and the heart will like, what lies in a soul. A pure soul will see the purity and will loathe the filth. A filthy soul will see the filth and will love the filth. It is a natural phenomenon. Khawaja Asif’s act was a mere reminder to us of our rotten society that is rich in patriarchy, misogyny and pervaded with depravity. Khawaja Asif was standing as a representative of all the ugliness that is a hallmark of our society.
Khawaja Asif is a reflection of who we are.
Society is a mirror of its citizens. As conscientious Pakistanis, it is time for us to introspect and look ourselves in the mirror. For who we are; what we are becoming; and whom we are choosing to represent and control us.
For Khawaja Asif to no more be seen standing there tomorrow where he stood the other day hurling obscenities, we need to quit standing where we stand today: on a mound of filthiness.