This blog is for you

Published January 26, 2011

I click open an image of two shriveled-up men and a stocky one with an even stockier moustache. Stocky is the only one looking in the camera – the other two are looking away; probably not because of guilt though but more so because they may have never been photographed before, nor handcuffed for that matter. Meet the father and uncles of Saima – or better yet, meet the killers of Saima.

Saima made the grave mistake of falling in love – where some would think that heartbreak might be the only calamity to come about after falling in love, cases like Saima would show you that death too can be a result of harbouring strong sentiments for someone.

Saima was electrocuted by the men in her family because she shamed them by eloping with a man of her choice. Such was the disgust and anger towards her that her father who may or may not have shed a tear or two of joy when she was born, electrocuted his little girl because she made the choice of falling in love. For shame!

It’s amazing how we all can go on for days at a stretch discussing Veena and her latest antics but stop short when it comes to consistently and continuously discussing the plague of ‘honour killing’, which if anything is just becoming more wide-spread. Saima, who has still managed to retain her name in newspapers, will very soon become a statistic in an NGO’s report.

Last month, Dawn.com published a story regarding an old folk singer who was now living a life of poverty on a Thatta sidewalk. The response was so overwhelming that before the editorial team could provide readers with a contact for the woman, an enthusiastic team of ordinary civilians mobilized a movement themselves and not only did they locate her, but also managed to raise abundant funds and secure a home for the woman.

So in the same spirit of unity, why can’t the ordinary people of Pakistan unite and mobilise themselves for a few of the Saima’s if not all of them? Dozens of readers point out that blogs posted here need to be translated and sent to Urdu publications so that the masses can read them – however, this blog isn’t for those masses. This blog is for you – the ones who have the power and ability to debate and think rationally. You have the power to change mindsets and probe into centuries-old traditions which are plaguing your country. If volunteer teams can travel to rural areas to administer polio drops, to deliver aid for flood victims, to find a forgotten folk singer – why can’t they go and provide basic education and knowledge?

Instead of being there to console and shelter a victim of domestic violence or forced marriages, why can’t NGOs and social workers prevent that from happening in the first place instead?

We aren’t the lawyers, we won’t come out on the streets and create mass hysteria. Neither are we the KESC workers who will vandalize property to get attention. But just because we aren’t violent and aggressive doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to fight the extrajudicial actions taking place around us. The government won’t do it – let’s be realistic, they can barely keep their own house in order, let alone deal with the corruption and bribery taking place in our justice system.

Whether we choose to awaken the masses on the reality of extrajudicial killings, whether we choose to go educate a few crazy men or whether we choose to work on our justice system – we have to make a choice. One choice (a very popular one) is to sit here and challenge each other and ask ‘well what are you doing in this regard?’ – but that would be a waste of time and energy and produce no result. Instead, think as an individual and act in solitude and soon enough you’ll have a dozen others ready to join your cause.

Shyema Sajjad is the Deputy Editor at Dawn.com

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