Is the tide turning?
Abdul Sattar Edhi believed in organ donation and had asked his family to donate all of his functional body organs after his death. He died at a ripe old age due to renal failure. Only his eyes were found to be useful and one each was subsequently transplanted into a man and a woman to bring light to their blind worlds. And lo and behold! While Edhi was being generous and kind even in his death, a diktat was issued by some clerics denouncing the practice of organ donation and describing it as something against Shariah. Then we have Pakistani sportswomen bringing laurels to the country without even having basic resources available to them for training and practice in their respective sports. One of them, a cricketer, is somehow hired once by a company to do an advertisement - just like her male counterparts do all the time and earn millions regularly for doing these publicity advertisements for a number of things, from gadgets to soda. She is shown bowling in a match, in action as a part of a promotion of the item she is publicising.
Orya Maqbool Jan, certainly superannuated as he is said to have retired from government service, a hyperbolic columnist and commentator, finds this advertisement terribly obscene. It is also Jan who draws an analogy between women and bitches. Saying that it is natural for the females of all species to stay home and take care of the offspring. But the example he chooses to give from the whole of the animal kingdom is that of dogs and bitches. Bitches stay home with the pups and dogs wander around. Therefore, women should stay home and feed and nurture their pups, oh sorry kids, while men wander around and loll about.
Then we have Fouzia Azeem, her acquired name being Qandeel Baloch, a model and a social media activist, killed in the name of honour by her brother. She was married off early in her teens and moved out of that abusive relationship. She turned into a non-conformist, said things on social media which were hard to swallow in a conservative society, spoke for the equality of women and exposed the custodians of morality. To someone like me, she was a bit of an exhibitionist and went overboard in her pranks. But she was totally benign, someone who would make people laugh or make them think about the hypocrisy that prevails in this society.
In any circumstance, how much you agree or disagree with someone, how can you kill that person? This is grotesque, a horrible crime, an unacceptable act of brutality and cruelty. Qandeel was only 26, a young woman full of life. She was asphyxiated in her sleep by her brother on the pretext that she was bringing dishonour to the family. But her mother and father, lower middle class, semi-urban Pakistanis, were shaken by the crime committed by their son. They think she was a brave woman and see a conspiracy behind her death. But another senior columnist and commentator, Haroon Rasheed, declared with his characteristic audacity that the things she said and did had left little choice for her family but to eliminate her. In Pakistan, there are so many acts of kindness that are criticised and acts of brutality that are justified. But in the past few weeks I have observed some significant changes in reactions of people around me - from different classes and backgrounds - to the incidents I have mentioned above and some other similar happenings. These are the people who used to keep silent or obediently nod to any argument made in the name of faith, tradition or culture by hyperbolic, audacious and aggressive social and political commentators. This they did even if these expedient but orthodox commentators would have liberally distorted history, were dangerously selective in their interpretation of faith (according to their sectarian inclinations always though) and created an illusion of racial and civilisational superiority among people that their ancestors in fact never had.
People at large completely ignored the diktats against Abdul Sattar Edhi. When a section of conservatives were criticising his son and the dead man himself for being inspired by socialism, by Marx and Lenin, most people paid no heed to that criticism. In fact, even without knowing what Edhi believed in when it comes to his faith, common Pakistanis looked up to him as a role model of a good Muslim. His donation of eyes was celebrated and any opinions contrary to organ donation in the name of religion were not accepted. Is the tide really turning towards more peace, tolerance and acceptance of difference and diversity? Or are people just tired of death and destruction, hate and exclusion? I don't know yet. But it is time we realised that while Pakistan needs a space for divergence of views, we also need a consensus on some basic norms and principles. -