This is not a trick question. How long does it take for a swarm of angry relatives to ambush a woman, stomp her into the ground and pound her with bricks until she dies? Answer: 15 minutes. Second question: how many police officers stood aside and violated their oath to protect and defend? Answer: two. Final question: how many centuries will continue to pass before Pakistan will institute a policy harness and suite of laws to deal with violence against women? I pose the question with a century-incremental timeline for a reason. It takes a minimum of three generations for cultural change. Farzana Parveen died in a brutally primitive manner. Brick, by brick, by brick. Those who collected her body noted that the trauma was so severe her remains were unrecognisable. She was killed in broad daylight on a busy transit corridor. She was buried in the dead of night. I suppose she was placed in the grave facing Mecca. Thankfully, her breasts probably determined the proper orientation. What remained of a shattered skull was of no use.
“If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people.” You know where I am going with this. Farzana was pregnant. The second generation of offspring for her father would soon make a wonderful appearance. Children are a distinct blessing. Farzana’s father did not care. A financial transaction meant more than family. The gift of a wife and the gift of a daughter were destroyed. Two souls were taken, not one. Two generations destroyed, brick, by brick, by brick. There are fathers. And then there are ordinary sperm donors. Real daddies do not kill their children. It is an unnatural act. Farzana’s grieving husband accused her father in the earlier death of another daughter, Rehana, stating that she was poisoned. This event cannot be corroborated. Unfortunately, the story becomes even more twisted. The husband of the deceased admits to strangling his first wife because of his desire to marry Farzana Parveen. This revelation rocked me back on my heels. Yes, these things happen in all locales. Lust can be the perfect match for rage, but the cultural stew that simmers across Pakistan makes it distinctly inhospitable for women.
Pakistan deploys a false flag operation every single time. Lip service is given to the trauma of the moment. Public officials say the right things. The protesting women feel empowered and trudge home again with their hastily discarded signs. And why is it that in a nation that speaks Urdu as a primary language, the words always manage to find their way to the English language? Are we the type of policymakers that Pakistani women wish for their own nation? US women certainly do not prance about with signs written in Urdu when our government is in need of a civilised public thrashing. The power of our pen flows with the English language. That is the language of our government. Urdu is the language of Pakistan but there is a different language being spoken behind the backs of its women. It is the language of men who can never quite lay down their own hang-ups regarding the female frame and what it means to truly offer a woman the same freedom that they themselves enjoy on a daily basis. Women are to be guarded, herded, tethered, bartered and battered, but we were formed from the same clot. “Recite, in the name of your Lord. Same clot” (Surah al-Muminun 14: the word clot is A-L-Q, which in the verb form means to hang, to be hanging, to stick, to be connected to). Speaking of blood, clots and humans in general, formerly, many US citizens employed a different language regarding our black Americans. It was also spoken behind their backs; not to their faces, of course. Deep down in our hearts our conscience would whisper that we were wrong. So the language was reserved for use with others of the same colour. This is the nature of bias. We do not like to flaunt our bias for the world to see. It is practiced in secret and we expose it for others of like belief. Let me share a vignette regarding the use of a different language, spoken behind the back.
When serving as a new nurse at a county hospital, I came into contact with this hidden language. My supervisor was a lovely black US citizen. A patient would not let her touch her to start an intravenous fluid. Somewhat shaken, the nurse sought me out to start the fluid. I held my tongue until the angiocath was inserted. Then I posed a question: what made the woman think that a black registered nurse was incapable of starting her IV line? She responded, “Why they are different. Even their blood is different.” When pressing the woman regarding the difference in blood, she responded, “Why their blood is green!” She had learned this ‘fact’ from her relatives. Who can reason with the unreasonable? Same clot but, this time, a green one. In the aftermath of a little girl being shot in the head, a woman lashed, stoned, or pounded with bricks, a few scoundrels are always brought to account. There is a predictable and rather boring flurry of grandstanding for the international media and the poor souls on home soil. However, institutional policy and ineptitude are never tackled on a grand scale. Things quickly gravitate back to the status quo. Someone is lining up with the next rock. Trust me on that. Journalism is not meant to function as a revolutionary tool but as a sculpting tool. The human frame can withstand revolution but is better served by being sculpted. The same is true regarding the rule of law. Healthy governance does not come from revolution, albeit revolution may precede it. Healthy governance is an artisan craft, which sculpts the collective human frame known as a citizen body — chip, by chip, by chip. Never brick, by brick, by brick. Get to work Pakistan.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org