Tag Archives: Yemen

7 Points Aurat Should ‘Also’ March For

Aurat March began in Pakistan last year to observe International Women’s Day with the purpose of expressing solidarity with women. With the rise of feminism wave in recent years, many organizations have voiced about women rights and empowerment. It is a much-needed voice.

The March of this year grabbed my attention and I observed many pictures from Karachi and Lahore with women holding banners, posters, and placards. Yes, there were some important messages about honor killing, domestic violence, and individual freedom. But much to my surprise, most of the messages looked like a crusade against men. Although a few were exceptional and spot on, but I think the participants of the march missed the chance to raise the country’s many critical issues related to women. Some of the issues or events which the women should have raised and notified to the government.

There is every possibility that the issues below have been raised by a few but not many and can be voiced the next time such event is organized. Therefore, I am raising a few issues which deserved to reach the advertisement boards and I felt were more important issues than cooking together or finding socks:

01. MINORITY RIGHTS UNDER HUDOOD ORDINANCE

This has been a subject of controversy over the years about Hudood Ordinances (HO) which criminalizes rape and extramarital sex. The HOs which were enacted back in 1979 as the part of General Zia Ul Haq‘s Islamisation process is applied on both Muslims and non-Muslims in Pakistan. These ordinances are of two types; one is Hadd (punishment under Islamic Law) and the other is Tazir (punishment decided at the discretion of the judge or ruler of the state).

But the problem of this never amended 1979 HO law is that it is unilateral towards Muslims and discriminative towards the minorities. The Muslim man will not be convicted under the HO if he rapes a non-Muslim woman.

Under clause 8 of the Chapter of Zina under HO (VII OF 1979), the proof of Zina or Zina-bil-jabr is liable to Hadd only if at least four MUSLIM witnesses are produced to the case. The court is satisfied only when the requirement of Tazkiyah-al-shuhood (TS) is on the table. TS simply means that the witnesses are truthful persons and abstain from major sins. While applying TS, the law indirectly considers the non-Muslims as witnesses untruthful and unreliable.

Due to this reason, the non-Muslim women are not able to register their statement and has to visit the magistrate under section 21. The worst possible damage for a non-Muslim woman getting raped is her pregnancy. The DNA tests will decide if the illicit child is of the rapist. Only then there is a possibility of her getting justice which is by then exhausting and humiliating if she really survived to that day.

In the first place, HO introduced ambiguity into the law by recognizing rape with fornication/adultery in the same frame which is exquisitely horrible. Fornication or adultery is a ‘voluntary’ sexual intercourse between the two but rape is when the one indulges by forcing the other. Former is sin by religion, the latter is a crime by law.

Imagine how many non-Muslims are imprisoned due to the confusion and mess created by these laws. We do speak of minority rights but what about those who are jailed for wrong reasons?

02. LOW PAY SCALE OF SPORTSWOMEN THAN SPORTSMAN

I am not aware of the other sports but let’s not expect any good about women earning some respectable amount as compared to men in any sports because the situation in this matter is worst in cricket.

In Aug.2018, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced central contracts for 33 men and was further reported that the male cricketers were getting an increment in their salaries by 25-30%.

Among the 4 categories, the players under the top category which is A were to get Rs. 800,000/month. This followed by players under category B, C, and D to get Rs. 500,000, Rs. 350,000 and Rs.200,000 a month respectively.

Four months prior, when PCB announced a central contract for 21 women, the board was paying an extremely small amount. As compared to men under A category paid Rs.800k, the women were paid only Rs.100k. Yes, eight times less!

The same case with the women under B, C and D categories were paid only Rs.80k, Rs.60k and Rs.40k a month.

I am not saying that the women should demand equivalent to the amount men are paid in Pakistan cricket. I understand the global marketing, advertising, organizing tours and fixtures, ticket sales fetch more of the board’s budget in men’s cricket than women’s. But paying eight times lesser to women is not justice at all.

Not many families can afford their daughters to step out and play the sports they love as they have to tackle many domestic and social issues. Coming from tough and difficult background stories, physical fitness and health is a huge focus for these sportswomen and I don’t think that most of the sports will facilitate them enough. Maybe cricket in Pakistan but the figures in the contracts above are discouraging.

The central contracts for women were announced a few months ago without mentioning the amount in figures. But what change will there be? And this is cricket I am talking about. You decide yourself what women are paid in the other sports.

03. WORKFORCE AND PAY GAP

As per the new Global Gender Pay Gap (GGPG) released by the World Economic Forum in December 2018, it will take 202 years to close the gap or in other words, men and women will earn the same figure of money in any given position across the globe after 200 years have crossed. This has improved from the 2017 report which predicted 217 years. Furthermore, women today are paid 63% of what men earn.

149 countries were ranked in this report. Iceland topped the list with women there earning 85% of what men earn. And guess where Pakistan ended up. They were 148th and above Yemen. Women in Pakistan are earning only 55% of what men earn. Yes, it indeed is embarrassing that the poorest countries in the world like Chad ($919 per person a year) and Mali ($917 per person a year) have a better ranking (145 and 143 respectively) than Pakistan. This disappointing percentage of Pakistan has increased by only 1% since the 2006 report.

The most disappointing factor is that Pakistan is consistently the second-lowest in GGPG for the past five years. So no step has been taken to escalate the rank in the last few years.

According to a 2012 conducted study in the agricultural sector, female workers were earning only 170 rupees a day as compared to male workers earning 300 rupees a day. The women earned 32% in skilled agriculture which was less than half of men (67%).

Pakistan, which is still amongst at least 60 countries with fewer women population than men, constitutes only 24% of the female labor force which is three times lesser than men labor force (82.7%).

04. RIGHTS FOR LESBIANS

(Here I will try to focus only on the lesbians out of LGBTs to stick on the points I am raising in this blog to a certain length)

With the awareness of globalization and increase in liberalization, one cannot ignore the rights of people from a different sexual orientation. Finally, after decades, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in favor of civil rights for the transgender citizens in 2009. And last year, the country’s parliament passed the Transgender Persons Act 2017 which established protection for transgender people.

Which indicates that there is hope for the homosexual community to get civil rights just like the transgender citizens. Because so far, the same-sex marriages are not permitted and the matter is not generally brought in discussion in fear of the moo-law fascism.

The country still strictly prohibits homosexuality. Forget about the rights of the lesbians, it is considered a crime by law and anyone involved in the carnal intercourse with the same gender are to be punished for at least two years and maximum ten years with a fine according to the article 377 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

It is quite weird to realize that PPC is actually inherited and renamed from the Indian Penal Code, an Anglo-Saxon law written by Lord Macaulay in the colonial era in 1860. Why Pakistan still follows an almost 120-year-old article 377? The amendment was made in A and B of article 377 but the article itself was not amended.   

Moving towards the globalization, the country is the least accepting the community of homosexuals and are hostile towards them. Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in Pakistan. There was a spark of controversy when the private news channel broke the news of two Pakistani girls tying the knot in the UK.

So what about the people in such minorities then? Either they live as compromised or settle down to a certain country where LGBT is tolerated to live with freedom. Speaking of which reminds me of a case of a lady from Karachi who moved to the UK because of the tormented years of her beatings and discrimination for her being a lesbian.

As per the 2013 survey report of the Pew Research Center, 87% Pakistanis rejected the recognition of homosexuals in the society. But four years later, ILGARIWI mutually conducted a global attitude survey under which 45% Pakistanis agreed that such people should enjoy the rights as straight people.

A very minor percentage of lesbians in Pakistan are not able to stand up for their rights. If the women marching on the streets or sharing support in the social media believes in women rights and freedom, then they should step further and speak about this specific minority. Let them live in peace and others live in their peace.

05. WOMEN IN OLD-AGE HOMES

I think the most haunting imagination of life has to be when you think about getting old. And when I say old, I mean when you cross over 65 or say 70 at least. And what if I add a further misery or a jingle of torture to send you to a center where people of same age live for God knows how long.

It is torture, no? Keeping in mind that you are old and not long enough is the remainder of life to live with a decline in health. And you expect that your young ones will take care of you but they rather prefer to drop you there.

Some actually are okay to end up there because they suffered enough by their own to decide to move there in peace which is also a tragic fate. Enough of haunting? A man in Pakistani society may survive but what about a woman? Her case is more sensitive.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once admitted that the number of old-age homes dramatically increased in Karachi alone which rose from six to ten centers between 2006 and 2010. A few of those centers were sheltering more than 150 people. Do read the stories of the then 67-year-old Fehmeeda and 84-year-old Darakhshan.

Let me clear a very important point here. On a few occasion, their young ones or the relatives are not at fault. Many of the old generations have to move welfare centers because there is no other solution to survive. The pensions at most of the sectors and the companies are not enough to maintain a healthy life. With age comes diseases and the expensive medical bills shape to become a will paper. Should I expect better public toilets especially facilitated for old-age people at all in Pakistan or at least in a few metro cities?

It is the duty of the state or the welfare organizations to raise the bar of building more centers with enough facilities to help them live a better life. At the same time, the women need to voice the awareness of taking the domestic responsibilities of protecting the rights of their old ones especially the women. Imagine the life of people living in rural areas or slums. Those female sweepers, cleaners, maids and servants who spent their life serving the others and stay in their extreme poverty. What are they when they get old? Some measures should be adopted to lead them towards a healthy life above the poverty line before they feel isolated and rejected.

06. VOICE FOR RAPE VICTIMS

Whenever we discuss the rape cases in Pakistan, the first victim who comes in the mind is Mukhtaran Mai, a villager from Meerwala who survived a gang rape ordered by the tribal clan in Muzaffargarh. She broke the headlines in the Pakistan media for some time and even hit the global media including BBC and Time Magazine.

The tragic popularity of Mai has now dimmed with the death of a 7-year-old girl from Kasur, Zainab Ansari, who was raped and murdered last year in January. And there are dozens of rape incidents which became seasonal headlines and disappeared. Many cases didn’t meet justice.

Kainat Soomro was 13 when she was kidnapped and gang-raped for four consecutive days. Her brother was murdered three years later when she voiced for justice. Her father was beaten with iron rods and the local tribunal determined her to be a Kari (the black female who loses the virginity outside marriage). She fought for her right for several more years.

The reason for highlighting a few is to bring awareness to this serious matter which is, unfortunately, happening for decades in this country especially in the rural areas. Can you ever believe that some village councils in Pakistan rules ‘revenge’ rape in some cases?

Most of the rape cases are registered from Punjab province where around 3000 rapes reached the police station in 2017. Almost the similar figures of cases were registered in 2016 too. If I only term crimes against the women instead of saying ‘rape’, 5660 such cases were registered across the country in the first 10 months of 2017.

That year, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported the lowest number of crimes by any province in the first half (202 including 72 rape cases). Balochistan had 354 cases in the first 10 months including four rape cases.

Sindh also has terrible stats. In 2016, there were 2817 cases registered about crimes against women which included 165 rapes and 13 gang-rapes. Next year, the new yearly concluded figures increased to 2934 cases out of which 156 were rape cases in Karachi and other parts, and 47 were gang-raped.

According to the 2017 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, the rapes were frequent but the prosecutions were rare. So imagine the fact that will disgust you that the abovementioned figures from the years 2016 and 2017 are only the cases which are registered to the police station. How many of those cases were then investigated? How many of those files were opened? How serious was the police department to eradicate or reduce the crime? When Zainab Ansari was lost and the case was reported to the authorities, they did nothing. In fact, the CCTV video footage was discovered by the family members when no response came from them.

I wonder such negligence has cost how many scores of lives in Pakistan. According to the Aurat Foundation in the same report (page 38), NGOs alleged the police that sometimes they abused or threatened the rape victims and demanded to drop the charges after receiving a bribe from suspected perpetrators. Some police demanded a bribe from the victims to register the case. According to the 2018 Pakistan Human Rights Report from the US Department of State, three Balochistan police officials were arrested for pressuring a rape victim to withdraw her allegations.

Yes, there were voices against the rape in the Aurat March but what about the rape victims? Who demanded justice for any rape victims? I may have missed some placards if there were but still not on a scale the participants of Aurat March should have.

07. PROTECTING WOMEN FROM ACID VIOLENCE

My final point of concern is about the women’s disfigurement by acid throwing mostly attempted by men. According to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Pakistan, there are up to 150 cases of acid throwing in Pakistan every year due to the domestic abuse. Some other possible reasons can be her ‘inappropriate’ dressing or rejecting the marriage proposal. Imagine, around 150 women in Pakistan are the unfortunate victims of acid attacks with the consequences of possibly permanent skin damage.

Speaking of which reminds me of the case. Almost seven years ago, Alex Rodriguez of Los Angeles Times covered an incident about a gang of four men throwing sulfuric acid on a 10-year-old Zaib Aslam and her mother Parveen Akhtar. One of the four men was recognized to be the ex-fiancé of Parveen’s older daughter.

The acid attacks on women in Pakistan came to global attention only when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge directed the Academy Award-winning documentary ‘Saving Face‘ in 2012.

Naila Farhat was the first prominent name of this century to suffer the acid attack. At 13, Naila was punished by her teacher’s friend for refusing the proposal by throwing acid while coming back from school in 2003. Punishment to the culprit? 12-years imprisonment and 1.2 million fine by the sessions court. So when the culprit appealed in the High Court, he was released with the condition of paying the fine.

Due to Naila’s courage to take the matter to the Supreme Court and the efforts of ASF Pakistan in 2011, the parliament decided to pass the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill on acid violence. But the unfortunate part is that maintaining reliable data about the cases were not taken seriously by the federal and provincial governments and due to the reason, the number of cases is extremely low. Based on the monitoring of the media, 96 cases were recorded in 2012, 67 in 2013, and 84 in 2014.

In 2008, the New York Times covered the story of Shahnaz Bukhari, founder of the Progressive Women’s Association (PWA). This organization came to existence to help the female victims of social and domestic violence. In 1994, the PWA began to work on the acid and burn cases. Through this coverage, Bukhari has claimed that PWA has documented nearly 8000 acid attack cases during the period 1994 to 2008 only in Islamabad area. That is a huge jaw-dropping figure from none other than the capital.

The reason to write about all these acidic references is to emphasize that Pakistan badly suffers this type of violence. Throwing sulfuric acid on the body is a serious degree burn with much certainty of the skin to be never normalized or women not surviving the pain or committing suicide. And throwing for the most ridiculous reasons. Even if there are strong reasons, then this should not be the case. This is death before the real death.


The punishment of the last two points should be severe so that the crime rate drops somehow. Many laws have begun to shape in favor of women but there is still time for swift justice. I cannot imagine what and how most of the women especially in the rural areas have suffered in the 20th century.

In my opinion, the ideal government and nation are which advocates the liberty and religious, social, domestic and economic freedom of a woman. I believe that the woman should enjoy her rights and must be served/facilitated with her just demands.

Abdul Sattar Edhi once said that Humanity is the biggest religion. Indeed it is humanity which all the religions emphasize on by different teachings and principles. There has to be no existing religion which does not focus on the importance and rights of the women.

(NOTE: The pictures used in this blog are taken from The News article and belongs to Bismah Mughal).

Concluding my blog with the hope that people in Pakistan understand the significance of the critical issues and raise awareness. Sharing is caring.

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The Rising Of A Failed State (First Part)

Just an opinion as a prelude, when states fail their people, people then fail their states.

The victorious political party has a fixed period of time to win their people’s trust and act on the promises they spoke in their speeches. When the government fails, the nation looks after the other party who can do their work better than the current one. Time passes by, decades crosses, economy goes down and corrupts, the environment pollutes, societies lose morality, rich people invest money on survival, middle and lower classes frustrates and blames, and refuses and abuses, and fights and ignites, and doubts and shouts, and daydreams and screams, and cries and dies.

On the earth, the national deludes but in the grave, the national complains. We are not sophisticated people, we are colonized people. We do not rule, we are ruled. We are a nation who follows and revolves around ‘Cipher’. We are a puppet who is functioned by the other pair of hands. We have been played by the people in the supreme power for more than a century. The power is a supreme authority which can manipulate great minds. So when the extreme power strikes its spell like the beauty attracts to a man, the greatness turns in to greediness. The acts hold wrongdoings clean and cleam. The nation is further deceived and colonized.

A group of people with the right set of mind with an ideal vision in favor of the nation especially the poor are robust against disgust. They struggle without snuggle, raise their voice for change and whisper the hopeless ears that ‘we are the avengers to bring bad people in power to the highest court of justice and punish them, we are the masons to build and hold the broken wall, we are the defenders of solidarity and contributors to prosperity, we are the rescuers of the rights and advocates of the political revolution, and with the nation lost and frost we want to be the reason for the change in nation’s fate and fortune’. It is extremely painful to survive after being repeatedly deceived, the existence with such suffering only waits for the call of Azrael. It is highly likely to build a belief that there is still a helper offering a helping hand to change his/her fate and fortune. With new people in power on the same chairs, there is nothing but hope. And hoping is believing.

POLITICAL TURMOIL

(INTERNATIONAL)

After George W. Bush‘s declaration of War on Terror, things have gone further wrong in Pakistan’s way. With former General Parvez Musharraf joining hands with Bush on War On Terror and making the biggest blunder in Pakistan’s political history in the 21st century, Pakistan achieved nothing but suffered heavy losses physically and economically. The casualties are counted to at least 60,000 people and financial loss of more than a $100 billion in supporting what Bush began. But here is to admit the ugly truth that many of Al-Qaeda biggies were caught from Pakistan including the big bad news, Osama Bin Laden. After all these years of hiding, where was he finally found? In Abbottabad! In a compound which was located less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy. And Abbottabad is hardly one hundred kilometers away from the capital. More to the embarrassing mess, according to Bin Laden’s wife, he was living or hiding in that compound for five years! Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

(I will additionally recommend the readers to read a very interesting article from the mid-2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, A False Choice In Pakistan by Daniel Markey focusing on post 9/11, War on Terror and policy/relation with Pakistan and Pakistan’s internal issues and conflicts, even dangerously doubting on them if they are the trusted allies of the US.

Also, check another detailed report from the directory of the Federation of American Scientists about the political instability of Pakistan by Alan Kronstadt. This research was published in 2014.)

Pakistan’s further stress towards the motion of building or shaping a political harmony is their relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran. After decades of the brotherhood with Saudia, Pakistan is observed to be inclined more towards Iran in the recent times. Back in 2015, when the Kingdom called for the military support in the Yemen fight against the Houthis, Pakistan declined to support giving the impression that Iran was backing Pakistan for this. The Houthi rebels are the movement of conflict with the Zaidi ideology of the Shia sect heavily backed financially and militarily by the Iranian government. As per the 2012 report from the US official site, most of Yemen’s 35% Shia population is of Zaidi sect.

Pakistan under the new leadership also has to make an impression with the other Muslim countries that they are not dealing with the devils especially after signing billion dollars energy deals with Qatar and Russia. 5 Arab countries broke the ties with Qatar last year but Pakistan made an agreement with them before in late 2015 worth $16b to provide Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for the next 15 years. With Russia, Pakistan made an agreement of constructing Karachi-Lahore pipeline for the LNG transportation worth $2b also in 2015 and before this agreement, both Pakistan and Russia had signed a defense cooperation deal in late 2014 with Sergey Shoygu becoming the first Russian defense minister to visit Pakistan since 1969. This energy deal was also the countries’ first in 30 years. Knowing the fact that Iran and Russia both were backing Bashar al-Assad in the war crimes against his own people, Pakistan still went for it. From September 2015 onwards, Russia began heavily bombing in Syria.

Pakistan being a Sunni-dominated country has a 20% Shia population which disembarks them from the ground neutralities. The country would have to be someone’s proxy in the unwanted war. When Saudi Arabia launched Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) in December that year, 34 countries were involved which stretched to 41 later. All the participating countries were Sunni-dominated countries including Pakistan. With that understanding, all the Shia-dominating countries including Iran were not the part of it. To avoid the situation get worse, Pakistan hosted Iranian president Hassan Rouhani after a few months to reassure that Tehran is not an anti-Shia body. Saudia later on appointed the-then retiring Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Raheel Sharif as the commander of the IMA.

(NATIONAL)

With Pakistan already suffering from the international politics, the country lost its accountability in the province of Balochistan. The insurgency by the Baloch Nationalists against the government is decades old but the recent phase of the growing tensions began from 2005 when Shazia Khalid was raped at the Sui Gas facility. It is widely believed that she was raped by an army officer but when Parvez Musharraf declared on the state channel that the culprit in the army uniform is not guilty, Nawab Bugti led the violent uprising. Years passed but the fight didn’t stop.

Besides, a ruinous political unrest was witnessed in past few years. The Model Town Tragedy of 2014 badly affected the reputation of the governing body with the police killing several Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) protestors. Media broadcasters aired the shocking footages of a vandal, Gullu Butt, smashing windscreens of many parked vehicles by using a club and strangely leading the police squad attack the protestors. Furthermore, he was seen hugged by Tariq Aziz, SP of the same area. Butt was later arrested and then bailed out prompting heavy condemnation of both PAT and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Tariq Aziz was later promoted as SSP Discipline and Inquiry in Lahore police HQ after Butt was bailed out. The-then Law Minister of Punjab, Rana Sanaullah, defended the police operation.

On the other hand, after no response from the government on the demand of probe of election fraud in four constituencies for 14 months and no response from the supreme court despite fraud allegation from the additional secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan Afzal Khan, Imran Khan accused Nawaz Sharif of rigged elections and led a massive anti-government protest called Azadi March beginning from 14th Aug to the next 126 days. The slogan ‘Go Nawaz Go‘ went popular nationwide and among the Pakistani communities living across the globe from this event. But the use of this slogan dropped many cents of morality among the few anti-government lobbies that some of the pilgrims from Pakistan chanted the slogan during the pilgrimage and in the two holy cities.

THE DISTURBED GEOGRAPHY

Pakistan being one of the most insecure geographical places for the outsiders and one of the suffering regions by terrorism, met severe tragedies in the last few years indicating that the country has been under alarming target by the terrorist organizations. Among the few to mention and reflect the level of security crisis; Karachi airport was attacked by 10 militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and 36 people were killed back in 2014. Imagine the security situation of Pakistan’s other domestic and international airports when the country’s largest and busiest airport met this unfortunate event!

Sectarian clashes in the country have met tremendous hatred and grown concerns despite reinstating brotherhood for umpteenth times. The Afghan gunmen from Jundallah killed at least 45 Ismaili Shia passengers during open firing inside the bus in Karachi in 2015.

The shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar has been one of the most significant historic sites where a million visitors show up every year. Last year, a suicide attack (believed to be orchestrated by ISIL) killed at least 90 people and injured 300 others during the Sufi ritual after the evening prayer.

Months later, a series of terror attacks by ISIL and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar resulted in 96 casualties collectively in three different cities on the same day. In 2016, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar were also responsible for killing at least 75 and injuring more than 300 people in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park. The motive behind this terrorism was to kill the Christians who were celebrating Catholic Easter on that very day.

But the biggest tragedy amongst all the terror attacks was the Peshawar School Massacre when six gunmen affiliated with Tehrik-I-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked the Army Public School by open firing on the school staff and children between the age range of 8 and 18. 149 people including 132 school children were killed that day becoming the world’s fourth deadliest school massacre ever. This event ripped me because this fact just couldn’t accept digest me or accept my mind that a terrorist can open fire on children. I wish the murderers rot in hell, Amen.

DIGGING KUFR

Safeguarding the minority community has also been the talking point in Pakistan especially after the War on Terror. Also, the minorities have been socially ill-treated and there have been cases of church attacks, burning temples and killing them.

Minorities, who comprised 23% of Pakistan’s population back in 1947 which has now dropped to 4% in recent years, have been in remote position due to non-acceptance, unrecognition or intolerance by the Muslims in the surroundings everywhere. The case of the non-Muslim communities of both Hindu and Christian faith are highly sensitive. The Hindus in Pakistan in the early 90s had to suffer the wrath after the historic Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India was demolished by a large group of Hindu Kar Sevaks in 1992. In retaliation, more than two dozen temples were destroyed in one single day in Pakistan. Hardly two dozen of the temples for the Hindus remain in the country.

The Christian community has also suffered a series of setbacks in recent years. Over 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by the mobs in Gojra back in 2009. But a few months before the 2013 general elections, a twin suicide-bomb blast killed over 100 people and almost 250 injured at All Saints Church in Peshawar. Two years later, Lahore witnessed a bombing each at two different churches on the same day killing at least 15 people.

The case of the Ahmadi community is also very sensitive and plasters a dark and controversial image in Pakistan. Unnecessary to detail them but the community who were the advocates of Pakistan Movement, who supported Jinnah’s Muslim League for the establishment of a new Islamic state, who were one of the most prosperous and educated people after the independence, were victimized and targeted of their beliefs and killed in heavy numbers in 1953 and 1974. 2013 onwards, numerous events have crossed of their deaths. If the transgender can get their rights, why not Ahmadis? Because of their belief? As Imran Khan has given his support to the blasphemy law but the treatment of Ahmadis in the new hands of changing politics will be a sensitive observation.

RAPES AND HONOR KILLINGS

No nation can progress whose government is not able to protect and safeguard the women and children. This decade has met unfortunate events of honor killings and rapes, most of these occurring in the Punjab province. More than 70% of violence against women in Pakistan in 2014 occurred in Punjab with almost 30% increase in the cases registered Punjab as compared to those registered in 2013. In 2015, 1100 women were murdered in the name of honor. The Human Right Commission of Pakistan has listed more than 450 cases in 2017.

Alas, honor killings, unfortunately, is a tradition in Pakistan running for centuries. Elders of the family actually kill their women if she doesn’t obey and accept the marriage proposals, or find her speaking to a man, or committed with someone. There have been so many cases. I was shell-shocked when, in 2008, the three teenagers were buried alive by their Umrani tribe for choosing their own husbands, the politician Israr Ullah Zehri defended the honor killings in an open national parliament and willed to continue.

Most of the rape cases came to the attention from the rural areas where the local village council itself ordered the women to be raped. Yes, you read it right, rape order direct from the council. What eats my brain is that why and how the village cases have not come under scrutiny, why the women in rural areas are still the targets of rapes and honor killings? Four years ago, one village council ordered the gang rape in Muzaffargarh district, that was the very district where Bibi Mukhtaran was gang-raped back in 2002. So what changed there? Nothing.

January of this year observed a few rape cases of under 18, the most infamous being Zainab Ansari’s rape and death who was only 6 or 7 years old. A 3-year-old girl, Asma, was raped and murdered in Mardan.

With the ruling parties changing in the National and Punjab Assembly, many human rights organizations will have a careful observation on the number of cases reported, registered and the treatment towards the women and children during this tenure.

(Sincerely thanks for reading. This blog will be continued in the next and final part publishing soon.)

Rocky Doodle in Centuries-Old Ville

Thee-Ain Village
Thee-Ain Village

Tumultuous but gratuitous… Epitome in page of diary is unable to wit the writ… Gradually, I am intensive but evenly persuasive to prolong a gospel of wonder imagined to be true, which my eyes want to sue…

Although I am not a historian but a treasure collector from an unknown mystery island. There is a village in Al-Baha, province of Saudi Arabia, which is known as ‘Marble Village’. Yes exactly a brain cell gimmicked me. To trace the history of the village, some say 400 years and some say 600 years. Centuries ago, the villagers of the land had witnessed the battle between Ottoman Turks and their inhabitants. There has been a local incidence in the legacy of village that a long long time ago, an old Yemeni man was asked to find water using a golden dowsing stick. When he struck the source, it is said the stick jumped from his hands and took out one of his eyes. From that incident, the name of land widely became “one-eye village” which in Arabic the name you will trace over there is “Thee-Ain Village”.

Coming back to the compass of Keyhole, Inc’s greatest geographical spying gift to mankind, Google Earth, the navigation of route towards the destiny was fixed. The three musketeers were all ready for another adventure as d’Artagnan joined Mousquetaires de la garde. d’Artagnan is my own brother. The chosen transport of legitimacy is Hyundai Accent 2013. Moving from Jeddah, the total distance towards the destination point is 403 km. We will reach in 4 hours in a limited speed of 120 kph. But we won’t!!! There are numerous places to enjoy during the journey.

Route from Jeddah to Thee-Ain Village  

Matghoot
Matghoot

We left in midnight with empty belly and intended to consume fats by filling a heavy dinner and drinking fuzzy drinks. After crossing the territory of local city, we stopped the car at one of stations where we ate matghoot. Matghoot is a Yemeni traditional rice with chicken, decorated with rope of onions and grove of lemons in a large plate suffused on the plastic sheet. With the final burping of appetite, we left the spot.

 

Toy Shop
Toy Shop

Before the beginning of Leith Valley, we had another stopping with a bizarre gesture of visiting a toy shop and getting interested in considering to buy some toyish stuff. Having a toy shop with different varieties to offer, working at station of one of non-busiest spots was quite strange a view where surely not many customers will raise their eye-brows despite all attractions. We saw soft hanging car toys of popular characters like shawn the sheep, spongebob, sylvester the cat; different bicycles for kids, varieties of pair of slippers and sunglasses and much more. 

The dawn began while crossing Al-Lith located on Red Sea coast. My wish to see the marking point of destiny at dawn was lost with my dismantled patience waving in my brain cells. I was feeling exaggerated of not reaching the place on time but chamber of my heart was diverted by God knows a natural slideshow of landscapes. A temporary foggy atmosphere with rays of light burdening some excuse to reveal, the desert was flat silent on the plat. The breeze blew on them and thorny wild bushes stood like a statue of liberty in a sleepy Sahara.  There were numerous towns with petrol stations installed with no. of restaurants and masjid each after almost every kilometer. Many a time signboard bewared us from running camels but the caravan of camelus stayed aside. We stopped the car on this almost 275km-long road to capture shots of sunrise revealing from the mountains. That was such a lovely view and throughout the trip, I realized that nature was compassionate on us.

Destiny finally had a turn after lengthy straight road and we moved to left to reach Al-Muzaylif. From there, more landscapes and huge mountains were welcoming us. Few villages are existing there where we see activities of cultivation and fertilizing. We stopped at couple of spots to capture wonderful scenes of truly gifted nature. 

Almost 50 km away from Al-Mikhwah, we actually stopped the car for like 20 minutes at a site where fantastic 4 showed height of joyful madness by lying and posing in the middle of the road. With no running transport to bargain a piece of time, we utilized the space by posing in group with few moody gestures and impatiently waited to listen the clicking sound of camera mounting on tripod. For naturally obvious reasons, we preferred to listen the clicking sound instead of raucous horns of speedy vehicles. In any case, our ears had natural sense of hearing more than a dolphin for the time being to avoid any danger. As soon as we heard a clicking sound, we all started moving our ass swiftly and running simultaneously to look back if a vehicle was close to us. It was a hilarious and worth unforgettable scene, laughing on our tramping behavior. 

We are almost 30 km away from destiny, and here goes another stopping on witnessing innumerable troop of Hamadryas Baboons. Hamadryas baboons belong to the baboon species from Old World Monkey family. These species are mostly found in the ‘Horn of Africa’ which includes Eritrea and Djibouti.  Also you will view the species in southwest of Arabian Peninsula specially in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They were sacred animals in ancient Egyptian religions. The fur of males is silver-white in color while females are brown. 

Entered Al-Baha and we saw many ancient stone and slate houses on the hills. Many mountains and greenery attracts the place. Al-Baha is the capital of Al-Baha province and is easily one of Kingdom’s fittest  touring city. One ‘Sharif of Makkah’ named the city ‘The Garden of Hijaz’.  Al-Baha province is the smallest province of Saudi Arabia with population of 533,000. The province has 31 administrative centers and more than 50 forests.

2 leading traditional tribes here are ‘Ghamd’ and ‘Zahran’. 1) Roots of Ghamd tribe traces back to the most ancient arabian tribes of as-Saba’iyūn (a Kingdom that came to power in 1st Millennium BC) which nowadays is Yemen. Under editorship of George Walters, in a book ‘Arabia’ published in 1920, the tribe of Ghamd are described to be growing and exporting tobacco to Makkah. Nowadays you will find most of Al-Ghamdis in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. 2) Like Ghamd, Zahran also are the oldest and largest tribes not only in Saudi Arabia but throughout the Middle-East. Most of Zahranis migrated to metropolitan cities decades ago for betterment of life. In Islamic history, Zahranis are known to leave their houses, and properties to join Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in Madinah. Tufayl Ibn Amr and Abu Hurairah were Zahranis… Both the tribes branches 16 more tribes but in total, 13 tribes work in trade and agriculture while rest are nomadic.

Al-Baha is divided into two sectors. The eastern region is a mountainous area, 1500 to 2450 m above sea level known as Al-Sarah sector. Out of 6 main districts of the province, 4 belong to Al-Sarah which are Al-Aqiq, Al-Mandaq, Al-Qura and Baljurashi. The western region is a lowland coastal plain known as Tihama sector. In Tihama, the climate is hot in summer, warm in spring and mild in winter. The rest of 2 main districts lie here in Tihama which are Qelwa and Al-Makhwah. Al-Makhwah is the district where Thee-Ain ‘marble’ village is located.

Entrance
Entrance
Welcome
Welcome
Park
Park

After crossing many curvy roads and lookalike hills, we are welcomed by the signboard ‘Welcome Thee-Ain Heritage Village’. The wonder of historic nature is falling on our right. To our good luck, the visiting timings are complementary and convincing. You can visit the place from 7am-7pm everyday. Adults have to pay SR.10 each while a family has to pay SR.40.  We reached the destiny at 9 am. It is a very quite place with couple of families and a group of few friends entered the place before us. There is a parking lot with minimum of 50 cars to be easily parked. Also there are 30 seperate small-sittings with roofs surrendered by playground, plants and trees, and street lights. Nearby places are a cafeteria and stone-made modern masjid. Still renovation is under process in whole area for recreational activities of visitors. The renovation work is done under ‘Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities’ and ‘Fahad M. Al-Suwayegh Est.’

The village was built on a small marble mountain which is one of Sarawat range of mountains. It is comprised of more than 40 houses, many of them have 2-7 floors. If you take a close look in the bottom of most of boundaries, you will see lantern at almost every 10 steps. The ceilings of houses are made of slate stones with help of wood and juniper trees. To my huge surprise, no mortar or mud (might be little) has been used for the construction of these old houses. which is quite extraordinary. Stone lintels are used for doors and windows.

Wherever we went, we went altogether. All houses were certainly of same structure. We entered one from centuries old wooden door and the passage was surrounded by different stones. The ceilings were made of wood pasture and juniper trees. We entered more rooms inside and there was way to go up. The historic village can never ever be without birds or insects. There are many beetles taking proper care of houses. While reaching the 2nd floor, 2 bats one by one flew over us all of a sudden. Never saw them so close.

Many houses are in ruins and need to properly renovate because reaching the top floors or the fort are too risky. Despite weight problem, I had to risk myself climbing and moving slowly on many danger-inviting stones. The plan was simple! reach the TOP. Things did work when we found a passage to reach the top. The top area of the mountain are forts which were used to defend and protect the village from raids or monitoring purposes. With more altitude above sea-level, more air was blowing and became difficult to make videos  of the place until I entered one of top central fort.  Same story, many stones were raw and too risky to step forward.

Like I said, the place needs renovation. The families are the most likely to suffer, injuries are most possible. On the top, I certainly was the weakest to attempt the top height i.e., ceiling of fort. So I sat on the boundary for a while. Further more uninvited insects were serving me to welcome. Yep, bumble bees. They never stung me but their presence so close to me was enough to lose an edge.

Then we began descending down. Drank water and sat in the car. There was another route on our left and we drove on it. We began reaching the height of the top of fort and when we reached there, we realized an FML that to climb the fort, you have to join this route to reach it’s back. I had no energy to climb again as other fellows went back. I took rest in car. On my right, I was amused to see a small Saudi Arabian flag waving on top of one of large thorny bush.

Ancient Masjid
Ancient Masjid

Returned to parking lot. There was a cloud of question mark in one’s mind and asked us if we should go to the plantation side? That beautiful greenland was yet to visit. With my energy rebooting in these last 30 minutes, I thought it really sound interesting to make this intention a go. d’Artagnan was exhausted, so the musketeers left him in the car.  There is an ancient masjid of perhaps those times, made by stones without mud or mortar. Prayer rugs are properly placed in all 5 rows.

Boundaries are made to view the entire farmville. Here begins the green forest of your dream. A perfect farmville as if you really have entered the green wonders of most spectacular nature. We found spring water down the plantation and followed the route from where it actually begins. The beauty of green nature was compassionate on us as we witnessed tiny waterfalls. It was already afternoon but it was never warm.  Then I came to understand the origin of the name Thee-Ain. There is a spring which is known for the abundance and continuous flow of its water. The water flows down from the mountain peak, running between rocks disappearing and reappearing at different points painting a rarely ever seen image. This popped out water from the mountain is known as Thee-Ain which is flowing around 750 m above sea level. According to local villagers, this Thee-Ain spring never dries through the year and continuously supplies fresh water and feeds the agricultural production of the area. Thee-ain also means “having the spring”.

Subhan Allah! This wonderful nature gifted from Allah to such a historical place is the main factor for the abundance of farms, palm trees and banana trees surrounded by mountain village, and the fact that banana trees need a high percentage of water. This farmville goes more lively with troop of Hamadryas Baboons dancing on the palm trees and counseling the plantation with their hooting, chanting and screaming all over for I guess nothing. This Baboolon visibility was enough to remind my childhood of repeatedly watching my favorite animation Walt Disney’s 1967 classic “The Jungle Book” where Baloo tries to rescue the man-cub Mowgli from those chanting idiot chimpanzees. I sketch the same siting where baboons are staring at me and trying to understand with all efforts as why the bloody hell am I staring these lovely funny creatures. They try to come close, and I intend to make a move towards the water. d’Artagnan joined us.

Albert The Frog
Albert The Frog

One musketeer went ahead before us, returned and informed us that the mystery water starts from the mountain and has no access to make the proceedings. He and d’Artagnan left me and other fellow on our own and we went beyond to view this heavenly forest. He was so excited to see baby frog hosting him as he began to catch the tiny creature. The baby frog jumped by its utmost efforts for self defense but our friend didn’t let him go easily. In few minutes, he dropped it and caught another baby frog. 

At one edge of the stream, we didn’t move beyond to trace the origin of flowing water. The place was like a myth now. I saw large rocks, floating water, frogs and small fish swimming. I felt steady breeze. Tyranny of sunlight disapproved and overshadowed by silent large trees. Labyrinth of my world rocking under a utopian nature of daydreaming where I hark chirping of birds and hooting of baboons. Aquatic nature is lighting the bottom layer of rocks.

Never climbed a tree in my life as my mind was in confounding state of higgledy piggledy whether to try to climb or not.  My fellow musketeer helped me climb the branch of a giant tree like Bagheera of The Jungle Book making the Mowgli climb. The core difference was that Mowgli was very skinny and I carry a weight not funny. I climbed and was like if a statue was lying on the branch of tree. Scared of moving a muscle might slip me down, I remained big-eye open, freeky silent with my legs folded with branch protecting myself to be dropped down. My fellow eased and encouraged me to lose my limbs and stay low as my weight was easily balanced on the branch. He took snaps and I kept lying for 10 minutes until my belly fats began hurting and over burning. I came down easily on the rock and sat breathing heavily. For me, it was an experience never to forget. A heaven in forest, the joy I harvest…

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Lied on the rock and took a minor nap. Every single existence was like silent with only sound of streaming water. Under the shadow of tree, I looked up the branch and kept staring it. Red ants are not bothered of my lying as they kept marching from hither to thither. Far I can easily see the fort. I daydreamed beautiful fairies and charming topless mermaids, might they all of a sudden reveal from water and come close to me, call my name and kiss my lips.  But that never happened. In fact our waiting fellows came back to see us in agony. They were waiting for half an hour in the parking lot as car key was with us. We left the heavenly forest and left the village.

On our way back, we searched Pakistani restaurants for desi food. As almost all the shops and restaurants were closed after Friday prayers, we felt if we are going to have a heavy lunch in hours. But after ending of Al-Baha territory, we found a Pakistani restaurant where we were the only visitors.  We ordered chicken and mutton karahi plus beans with loaf of breads. Waited for 20 minutes until the heavy lunch was served with a smell forcing our mouth to eat the fleshes swiftly. It is no doubt, one of tastiest karahis I have ever eaten in life. With rope of onions and frozen cucumbers adding the taste like a sauce or a paste.

Karahi
Karahi
Pakistani Hotel
Pakistani Hotel

We returned to our city at approximately 9 pm. Tired and exhausted, lying on my bed reminded me the rock I was lying on with tree branch on the top. My movement of limbs within a quilt sensed back my slipping from raw stones. Even while sleeping in the usual dark, I felt those couple of bats flew on me. Ringing of mobile in deep sleep was like screaming baboons from the palm trees. The floor of my room became marble gloaming in the night. Out of my room, my cats walking on floor was imitation of beetles on hard surfaces. I daydream of lying in the forest while working in office. I wish to go back there. I will go back with my fellow musketeers In Sha Allah soon before year ends in winter.

Interested visitors must keep in mind;

  1. To visit the village early morning between 6 am-7 am to enrich the beauty of farmville and marble village.
  2. To have your bag-packs with compulsory cold mineral water bottles and first-aid kit.
  3. To go from the back side if you are interested to climb the top of fort.
  4. To not rely on any ceiling of the floor filled with raw stones.
  5. To wear hard shoes which will guarantee the safety from stones and rocks. 

In the end I conclude with special thanks to my fellows who took part in the adventure as always and made the trip so special. I also am thankful to Ministry of Tourism who are working with their best efforts to renovate such places and attract more customers. Last of all, thanks to Allah Almighty for gifting us heaven on earth where we can explore the nature. 

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists – Charles Dickens

Fantastic 4 - Wasey (left), Alpha (center left), Myself (center right) & Taha (right)
Fantastic 4 – Wasey (left), Alpha (center left), Myself (center right) & Taha (right)