Thursday, July 14, 2011

The unaccounted girls?

Abductions of Urdu-speaking girls has been often claimed to happen during riots between the Pathan and Urdu-speaking community in Karachi. So far I mostly attributed it to being an extension of the old story about Gohar Ayub Khan picking ‘Muhajir’girls (since at that time the term Urdu-speaking was not coined) from Lalukhait in 1964, which resulted in the language riots. However, the frequency and intensity of these stories has increased, since Benazir’s assassination and the ensuing riots that engulfed Karachi. What further boggles the mind is that none of the major news agencies carry this information. From BBC to Express Tribune, Daily Times, Jang etc.

One reason could be that the stories are often only related by word of mouth and therefore can easily be considered rumors. If these are just rumors, they could be used to exploit the youth by the interest groups. If they are not rumors, it shows the tribal mentality still prevalent in our society where dishonoring women is just a part of an all out war, in which women do not even have a say. They are just a tool, used by the enemy to feel powerful and make the other party feel weak and dishonored. There could other factors too which must not be over looked, and that is some traditional Pathans buy a woman to get married. This could be a perfect opportunity for them to get a wife at no cost nevertheless this could not be the only reason for them to indulge in this activity.

Another question to ask could be why are the parents’ not reporting if this is happening? I suppose there are many reasons for that too; Shame, dishonor, fear of being ostracized, illegal resident status (in case of Bangladeshi families) and the 'ghairat' syndrome, which has more value than a woman herself. Combine everything together and we have unreported rapes, molestations, and abductions etc of women. Although many people may disagree since politically moticated issues always get highlighted by the media, citing the case of Mukhtara Mai and Shazia Marri, can anybody honestly feel that these are the only two political rape/abduction cases in Pakistan against women? These may be the two most reported cases, but not the only ones. The media needs to verify these stories or to put the rumors at rest so that the negative elements do not use it to further escalate the already deteriorated conditions in the city.

The incidents
The first such story was related in February 2008 by an old Baloch woman resident of Lyari. She was concerned about the moral deprivation of the youth and said, “I am shocked how they can steal from the same guy who provided them with food at no cost when they did not have any money. Not only that, they even picked girls from their houses.” What she said could be an exaggeration, one may never find out.

Another incident was reported by some relatives, a husband and wife, who were passing through SITE Industrial Area and witnessed the abduction of three women factory workers by some men in a Suzuki pickup. Their guess was they were Baloch and Makrani men.

Now this is July 2011 and the same kinds of stories are pouring in from Katti Pahari and Qasba Colony, Orangi Town. According to our Dhobi, he witnessed a stranded bus from which some Pathan men picked up the Urdu-speaking girls and the rest of their mob beat up whoever tried to resist or save them. The police standing nearby merely watched, since they probably had no orders to act. While some other men too witnessed similar incidents in the area, there is still a blackout in the news about these incidents. There is not even a report putting to rest such rumors.

Whether these stories are true or not, they remind one of the gory pre-partition stories written by Saadat Hassan Manto.

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