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Tainted by honour

January 31, 2013

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

We hide our honour under topis, turbans and chadors. Our honour is reflected in our moustaches that line the sky like eagles and bats. Our sense of honour awakens only in relation to those who are weaker than us, not when a person more powerful than us is involved. In fact, our honour actually bows down in front of the more powerful ones.

Our ghairat is roused only when the womankind is involved, no matter what relation we have with them. We are taught the “women are weaker” lesson since childhood. No one takes advantage of the weak like we do, so they become the first victims of our honour. It doesn’t matter if it is our own mother, who gave birth to us, or our daughter, sister or wife. Relationships, emotions and memories mean nothing when our honour is at stake. Our moustache, turban, topi, must be preserved at all costs, while lives recklessly hang in the balance.

Everyday, corpses are piled up in the name of the topi and turban; our chests swell with pride at the sight of these piles of corpses we’ve built. Honour has spread to our cities, and even permeated to foreign lands. Whenever such incidents take place in the West, the ‘honourable’ perpetrator, it is usually discovered, came from our country. It doesn’t really matter where we go, whether we end up in Europe or America, because we always carry our sense of honour around with us.

Our country’s law offers leniency to those who kill to protect their honour. This has become a business now, involving everyone from law enforcement personnel to the lawmakers. Jirgas take place despite the presence of courts in our land, presided over by those whom we have given the right to make legislations for us.

Honour keeps the mullah, pir, sardar, wadera, the seat-bearer and the one who claims to represent the city all united. Despite having honour crime laws, half of the country’s population continues to be massacred. Even the domestic violence bill still hasn’t been passed in the Sindh Assembly because the ‘honourable’ representatives of Sindh haven’t consented to it.

When they wish to please each other, laws are passed and implemented overnight. But any law that would help to reduce the killing of half our population is utterly unacceptable to them.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

The ‘honourable’ sons of this ‘honourable’ nation burn schools down, closing the doors of education upon their daughters in fits of ‘honourability’. They don’t like it when their daughters walk or play on the streets. Their girls don’t possess the rights to make their decisions or express an opinion. Our honour becomes a barrier for them at every step. While the world is progressing, we are stubbornly pushing our people back into oblivion. New inventions are being made everyday while we continue to try implementing new, sugar-coated forms of ancient prescriptions found in obsolete books.

Their sense of honour was once roused when the loudspeaker, television, computers and the internet were introduced. Today, they rampantly misuse these facilities. We see them 24/7 on our TV screens; it is as if one cannot exist without the other. Now they aim to bring about a revolution through the internet, not the one that will take us forward, but one that will actually take us many centuries back. If they could, they would stop the clock from ticking, and force it to move backwards instead. The sun rises everyday and will continue to do so. How will you stop it from rising? The night comes, and so the day will follow. You want it to remain dark, but that is not possible.

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Occasionally, someone challenges our national or religious honour. The guards of justice, so deeply entrenched in honour, take notices upon notices day in and day out. But no one is ‘honourable’ enough to stop giving bribes or start paying taxes. Our ‘honour’ is just limited to burning tyres, shutting down roads, burning someone else’s car or letting factory workers burn to death. No quaid would ever stop extorting money for the sake of his honour.

Couldn’t we use our sense of honour to clean up the streets, instead of littering them? Instead of enjoying unnecessary holidays, couldn’t we do our share of work because our sense of honour doesn’t allow us unnecessary holidays? Maybe we could start pushing the wheel forward instead of backwards, because the latter hurts our honour. Maybe the writer could start writing, the teacher teaching and the student learning because their sense of honour was roused.

These parrots of the media sit on their channels everyday, trying to rouse the public’s sense of ‘honour’ about various things, by saying things like, “Catch him!”, “Don’t let him flee”, “Now is the chance, let’s change everything!”

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.

Why can they not leave the labyrinths of ratings and see the reality for the sake of their honour? Instead of blaming politicians and the government, they could take up some of the responsibility too. Why can’t you bring change within your institutions before rallying for a change in the country? Maybe you could pay your employees their salaries, because not doing so would be against your honour.

But what can we do? We constantly blame each other and want to continue living like this. We give bribes, don’t pay our taxes, regularly violate traffic rules and other laws, not doing our work and then blaming others for not doing theirs. Our honour is only roused when the issue is related to others, especially those who are weaker than us. If our honour had roused when we did things that we shouldn’t do, we could have brought many changes. But this can still be changed. It is never too late.

Listen to this blog in Urdu [soundcloud url="" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

The author has dabbled in every form of the visual arts. An activist to the core, Abro’s work deals with social themes and issues ranging from human rights to dictatorial regimes. He is currently working for DAWN as an illustrator.