Posts Tagged ‘karachi’

Afghan Girl Exposes the US/ Rashmi Talwar/ Rising Kashmir


ScreenShot Heela Faryal Afghanistan

Brave Afghan girl exposes the US

Afghan girl exposes the US 

Rashmi Talwar

No veil, no dupatta, not even a scarf, Heela Faryal (not her real name), in her early twenties, came wearing a buttoned Purple long sleeved Kurta and straight black pants with silver slippers. Curious Karachi college girls went up to Heela- Afghanistan’s lone woman participant in a conference on women, but the latter swiftly turned, avoiding any selfies with the excited girls. It was not for her to exchange phone numbers or emails. She remained quiet even as her glowing face with a halo of dark curly hair on her shoulders failed to hide her youthful enthusiasm.

Heela, appeared stoic, as the only international speaker other than me from India, but her eyes were soft and smiling, choosing to get photographed only with speakers who had been informed to avoid any publication of her photograph owing to threat to her life.

Real time yardstick of a progressive nation comes from how their women are treated. The land of Heela’s forefathers in Afghanistan had been so unforgiving; it made her highly strung and secretive. Losing trust in human beings and simple humanity can be very, very shattering. This was Heela Faryal member of secret action group for women RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan).

“No, I can’t tell you my real name,” she pleaded even though I was an international speaker like her. “No, I cannot even give you my phone number, please”, she supplicated, when I asked her.

She traveled to Karachi from Kabul, Afghanistan for the “‘Hum Aurtaen’ – No more Violence” programme by Tehrik-E- Niswan, a woman’s cultural action group based in Pakistan, headed by its stunning danseuse, actor and director Sheema Kermani.

Heela, a Muslim, yet didn’t feel one with those in Pakistan- who had freely come to attend the conference. In her country Afghanistan women were ensconced in the home space, treated brutally and worse than any other nation.

On stage, UK-read Heela, delivered her written content in English, without flinching she stirred the youthful women audience, with the unfolding of instances of Afghan women laid silent by horrendous torture and heinous killings over minor aberrations.

She introduced herself as a member of RAWA- oldest organization in Afghanistan that fights for rights of women, social rights and freedom while taking a stand against the Afghan fundamentalists and their international backers.

Naturally she was on their hit-list!

Heela related to the audience about Afghanistan’s most horrific crime ever committed against a 26-year woman in 2015. – “It was not inside the darkness and closed doors of her husband or father’s home. It was in broad daylight, in central Kabul, under the nose of local policemen and government, when Farkhunda, a young Islamic studies student, was encircled and lynched by a mob who accused her of burning the Quran. Brutally kicked, her hair yanked, spitted upon, punched and stomped, veil ripped off her face, bludgeoned with stones outside the mosque, the mob then dragged her motionless body some 300 meters into a street and her corpse was run over with a car and set afire. Her bloodied clothes couldn’t catch fire and the men threw their own clothing topis and scarves to burn her. The hideous remains were thrown in the dry Kabul River. Farkhunda’s crime: She had argued with a mullah, who then falsely accused her of burning the Quran.”

The audience was deathly silent and attentive. It was a chilling account.

It was on record, that a number of prominent public officials turned to social networking site Facebook immediately after Farkhunda’s gruesome killing, to endorse the act. The Deputy Minister for Culture & Information Afghanistan -Simin Ghazal Hasanzada approved the execution, wrote- “Working for the infidels.” The official spokesman of Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai wrote “Farkhunda- thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, they lost their life.” Zalmai Zabuli, chief of the complaints commission of upper house of parliament, posted a picture of Farkhunda with this message: “This is the horrible and hated person who was punished by our Muslim compatriots for her action. Thus, they proved to her masters that Afghans want only Islam and cannot tolerate imperialism, apostasy, and spies.”

Pausing and taking a deep breath, Heela took up for another 19-year- old Rukhshana, stoned to death in a mud pit by a Taliban kangaroo court in a Mullah-dominated western province of Afghanistan, for eloping last year. “Her screams echoed as an angry crowd of Taliban threw rocks at her, ending her in a stoned silence”.

“Treatment of women in Afghanistan would put even cannibals to shame”, some whispered in the audience.

She spoke out about women in Afghanistan crushed by several demonic forces including – the US and its allies, Jehadists, Taliban, and now the ISIS.” Coming down heavily on America she contended- “The US used women’s rights as an excuse to invade my country Afghanistan and continues to kill innocent women and children and conduct their terrifying drone attacks and chilling night raids in all parts of Afghanistan. The biggest crime the US has committed is the installation of fundamentalists in a puppet government.”

Without a blink, she pointed to the alleged black sheep in the government made with US support- “Afghanistan’s National Unity Government is headed by long-time CIA mercenaries-Ashraf Ghani (current President of Afghanistan) and Abdullah Abdullah (CE of Afghanistan), after US Secretary of state-John Kerry brokered a deal.” And added-“Abdullah Abdullah is one of the leaders of the most infamous fundamentalist parties of Afghanistan, Shoraye Nizar.”

She further accused–“Afghanistan’s current government, Parliament, and judiciary are all occupied at highest positions by criminals, heinous fundamentalists and warlords implicated in grave war crimes, and enjoy unconditional backing of western powers”. Adding more names to the alleged black list she pointed out – Mohammad Noor (Governor of Balkh Province ), Karim Khalil Dostum (former Vice President of  Afghanistan), Mohammed Mohaqiq (a politician), Sarwar Danish (former Vice President of Afghanistan), Ustad Murad, Ahmad Khan, Alimi Balkhi (Minister of Refugees& Repatriation ), Taj M. Mujahid.”

The names except for Afghanistan’s present president Ashraf Ghani didn’t register with the Pakistani audience much, but most understood they were one of the top crème of the government in Afghanistan.

Taking a piercing dig at the Afghanistan Parliament, Heela lamented-“In 2009 Afghanistan Parliament attempted to legalize marital rape!”

The question in many minds arose –“How could they even ‘attempt’ such a law with the US looking over their shoulder?”

The audience was clearly reminded of a recent protest against the new Pakistani law called the ‘Punjab Protection of women against violence, Act’ that saw a coalition of 30 religious and political parties declaring the law un-Islamic and an attempt to secularize Pakistan- a country evolved on theological lines.

Heela meantime, quoting a UN report said -“According to United Nations, the Taliban’s reach is widest today since 2001. The suicide attacks by Taliban, and constant war with Afghan government has made life hell and civilian deaths in 2015 were highest, majority being women.

While public executions, stoning and amputation are widespread, the Taliban are welcomed with open arms to join the government instead of putting them on trial,” she trailed off in a stoic voice.

I am sure it was not hard in Pakistan to understand how their political dispensations segregation of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban to further their agendas in many countries, had aggravated the situation beyond control in their own backyards. The Easter attack in Lahore killing 72 and injuring hundreds was recent incident hard to ignore.

Heela took on the ISIS with the same venom, and said –“If this was not enough, the branch of ISIS in Afghanistan has begun taking root and already started committing atrocities.” And asked  “What was the conclusive result of US and its allies, long presence in Afghanistan?”

She only saw blank faces as no one knew the answer.

And continued –“Afghanistan is under the thumb of four brutal forces-The USA and allies; Jihadists; Taliban and now the ISIS. The prime victims are always women.” Castigating foreign funds for inhuman use, she vented –“Islamic fundamentalism comes in many brands and forms and killers are created by misogynists or women-haters, and almost always funded by foreign sponsors to further their interests in other countries.” Afghanistan’s with its $60 billion dollars in foreign aid, is 3rd most corrupt country and has devoured all its Aid and funds.

This was not far from the truth, as a well-documented fact had surfaced that US Pentagon auditors were perplexed over the missing US military equipment worth $420 million in year 2013. The report also stated that between 2006- 2010, equipment valued at nearly $240 million could not be accounted for.

Heela struck the USA’s warped policies, due to which an alarming rise was seen in narcoticproduction in Afghanistan –“Thanks to US invasion; Afghanistan has risen to become a narco-producing state of more than 90% of world’s opium. Women have not escaped the effects of this drug production and about 890,000 out of an unofficial figure of 3.5 million addicts are women including children, in Afghanistan.”

She also criticized the US for falsely and consistently trumpeting gains made by women of Afghanistan buttressing them with instances of presence of females in the Parliament and the relative freedom of women in a few urban cities. “What remains unsaid is that most of these female officials are tied to fundamentalist parties and share their misogynist mindset. These are mere cosmetic changes, only used for propaganda purposes to justify the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan to the people of the world. It is merely to peddle the fact that supposed gains will be lost if foreign troops withdraw,” she boomed.

Her revelation about Afghanistan realpolitik was indeed stark and shocking. In India and many other countries, the US viewpoint was believed, however we were shaken out of our opinions with the facts put across by this young citizen of the beleaguered nation.

And Heela continued –“Despite US and allies presence, which accounts for medical help too, Afghanistan still has the highest maternal mortality rate with one out of nine deaths during childbirth. 57% afghan brides are under 16, about 87% women are illiterate and merely 5%girls attend secondary schools,” she held these counts as offhand and said the ground reality was much worse. ‘Afghanistan is rightfully called the ‘worst place to be a woman’.

Heela concluded with a call for an organized progressive grassroots movement for greater freedom to women in Afghanistan.

She got a resounding applause at the end of it. It was not about delivery of a written piece it was a solidarity gesture with the female sex that few men along with women in Pakistan had also watched and an acknowledgment of Heela’s bravery in exposing the wrongs in her society without fear.

The youngest member of RAWA was not only daring but possessed the wherewithal for survival and anonymity. She couldn’t have stopped many giggly young Pakistani girls from taking her picture during her stage address but with a single stroke she swiped all her pictures from my iPhone with function of ‘airdrop’ leaving me with no pictures of her and smoothly evaded to give me her contact number.

Her act did not fray me; rather it brought a smile and reminded me of a phrase- “Desperate times need desperate means”! And conversely compelled me to salute this heroic young woman of Afghanistan! Just a few days after this address, Heela’s friend request entered my Facebook inbox, naturally picture-less.

The Author can be emailed at rashmitalwarno1@gmail.com

FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON 17TH APRIL 2016

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‘Dare to bare’ Pak fashionistas” thumb a nose at Taliban


KARACHI: Bare shoulders, backless gowns and pouting models are wowing Pakistan’s glitterati as Karachi fashion week shows the world a different side of the Taliban-troubled nation.

karachi fashion_1

A model presents a creation by Pakistani designer Samar Mehdi during the Pakistan Fashion Week in Karachi. (ASIF HASSAN-AFP Photo)

While women in much of Muslim, conservative Pakistan opt for headscarves over baggy shalwar khamis or even burkas, on the catwalks of financial capital Karachi, designers are exposing midriffs and flashing cleavage.

Fashion week runs until Saturday, taking place three weeks late because of security jitters and as a mark of respect for more than 300 people who perished in a string of attacks blamed on Islamist militants last month.

Fashionistas in Karachi, however, shrug off security fears in the southern city of 14 million people, known for its glitzy malls and thriving cafe culture a two-hour flight away from militant hubs in the northwest.

“We, the members of Fashion Pakistan, feel great to be hosting this colourful event at difficult times in our history, when the entire nation is waging a battle against militancy,” she said.

The eight local designers who opened the event experimented with twists on traditional Pakistani dress and western styles.

Intricate and colourful fabrics lit up the catwalk, while a towering black feather hat, off-the-shoulder dresses and halterneck gowns graced the frames of sultry models strutting in high heels past an awed audience.

‘I’m here to understand what you mean by Taliban’:Arundhati Roy in Pakistan


Celebrated Indian author and social activist Arundhati Roy addresses a gathering at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.-Photo WhiteStar/Fahim Siddiqui

Celebrated Indian author and social activist Arundhati Roy addresses a gathering at the Karachi Press Club on Friday.-Photo WhiteStar/Fahim Siddiqui

The media coverage of Arundhati Roy visit to Karachi on May 8 , 2009 was posted to me by Mr Noormuhammad of Pakistan. It is important for us to assess what our fellow Indians say about India when they address audiences of another country. This becomes even more pronounced when addressing the neighbouring countries. Mr LK Advani too went to Pakistan in 2005 and addressed the Pakistani audience. As an author (God Of Small things) and social activitist in India Arundhati’s views may or may not necessarily be the view of Indians but India is committed to the fundamental right of free speech . So be it. …

by Salman Siddiqui/Dawn .com

Is there a threat of Talibanisation engulfing the entire region?

I think it has already engulfed our region. I think there’s a need for a very clear thinking (on this issue of Talibanisation). In India, there are two kinds of terrorism: one is Islamic terrorism and the other Maoist terrorism. But this term terrorism, we must ask, what do they mean by it.

In Pakistan, I’m here to understand what they mean by this term. When we say we must fight the Taliban or must defeat them, what does it mean? I’m here to understand what you mean when you say Taliban. Do you mean a militant? Do you mean an ideology? Exactly what is it that is being fought? That needs to be clarified.

I think both needs to be fought. But if it’s an ideology it has to be fought differently, while if it’s a person with a gun then it has to be fought differently. We know from the history of the war on terror that a military strategy is only making matters worse all over the world. The war on terror has made the world a more dangerous place. In India, they have been fighting insurgencies military since 1947 and it has become a more dangerous place.

Swat and the Taliban boy

It is very important for me to understand what exactly is going in Swat. How did it start? A Taliban boy asked me why women can’t be like plastic bags and banned. The point is that the plastic bag was made in a factory but so was the boy. He was made in a factory that is producing this kind of mind(set). (The question is) who owns that factory, who funds it? Unless we deal with that factory, dealing with the boy doesn’t help us.

Water is the main issue

One danger in Pakistan is that we talk about the threat of Taliban so much that other important issues lose focus. In my view, the problem of water in the world will become the most important problem. I think big dams are economically unviable, environmentally unsustainable and politically undemocratic. They are a way of taking away a river from the poor and giving it to the rich. Like in India, there’s an issue of SEZs (Special Economic Zones), whereby the land of the people are given to corporations. But the bigger problem is that there are making dams and giving water to the industries. This way the people who live in villages by the streams and rivers have no water for themselves. So building dams is one of the most ecologically destructive things that you can do.

Fight over Siachen glacier

There are thousands of Pakistani and Indian soldiers deployed on the Siachen glacier. Both of our countries are spending billions of dollars on high altitude warfare and weapons. The whole of the Siachen glacier is sort of an icy monument to human folly. Each day it is being filled with ice axes, old boots, tents and so on. Meanwhile, that battlefield is melting. Siachen glacier is about half its size now. It’s not melting because the Indian and Pakistani soldiers are on it. But it’s because people somewhere on the other side of the world are leading a good life….in countries that call themselves democracies that believe in human rights and free speech. Their economies depend on selling weapons to both of us. Now, when that glacier melts, there will be floods first, then there will be a drought and then we’ll have even more reasons to fight. We’ll buy more weapons from those democracies and in this way human beings will prove themselves to be the stupidest animals on earth.

Money and the Indian elections

Whatever system of government you have, whether it is a military dictatorship or a democracy, and you have that for a long time, eventually big money manages to subvert it. That has begun to happen even in a democracy (like India). For example, political parties need a lot of publicity, but the media is also run by corporate money. If you look at the big political parties like the Congress and the BJP, you see how much money is being put out just in their advertising budgets. Now where does all that come from?

RSS and the Indian establishment

The RSS has infiltrated everything to a great extent. In India, we have 120-150 million Muslims and it’s considered a minority…It’s impossible to not belong to a minority of some sort in India. Caste or ethnicity or religion or whatever, in some way everyone belongs to a minority. The fights that many of us are waging against the RSS and against the BJP are to say that we live in a society which accommodates everybody. Everybody doesn’t have to love everybody, but everybody has to be accommodated. The RSS has infiltrated the (Indian) army as much as various kinds of Wahabism or other kinds of religious ideology have infiltrated the ISI or the armed forces in Pakistan. They are human beings like everyone else and they too get influenced.

Indian media and sensationalizing of news coming out from Pakistan

I think the media in both countries play this game. Whenever something happens here, they hype it up there, while when something happens there, they hype the news here. We say that we live in times of an information revolution and free press, but even then nobody gets to know the complete picture…

The Pakistani media is a little different from the Indian media. They stand on a slightly different foundation. But both share the problem of a lack of accountability…The trouble in India is that 90 per cent of their revenue comes from the corporate sector…there’s increasing privatization and corporatization of governance, education, health, infrastructure and water management. So in India you see an open criticism of governance, but very rarely criticism of corporations. It’s a structural problem. It’s not about good people or bad people. It’s just that you can’t expect a company to work against itself. This is a very serious issue which needs to be sorted out.

Is the Indian army a sacred cow?

The Indian army is quite a sacred cow especially on TV and Bollywood. But at the same time if you talk to the people in the Indian army, they say that they feel that the media is very critical of them. I don’t share that view. I think it is a sacred cow. People are willing to give them a lot of leeway.

Women and their fight for justice

When women fight for justice, we must fight for every kind of justice…We must fight for justice for men and justice for children. Because if you fight for one kind of justice and you tolerate another, then it’s a pretty hollow fight. You may not be able to fight every battle, but you should be able to put yourself on the line and say I believe this.

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