| Tuesday, January 13, 2009
by Hamid Mir
The home of Hameedullah Khan in Shakardra village of Swat was destroyed by dynamite last week. He knows who the people who did this to him but he can turn to no one for justice. He has been a journalist from more than a decade. I know him because it was me who encouraged him to become a reporter 13 years ago when I was editor of an Urdu newspaper. These days he works for an Arab TV channel. The Taliban were not happy him and he claims that some local Taliban destroyed his home because of his reporting. This now homeless journalist has since shifted his family to Mardan.
I also know another journalist of Swat by the name of Musa Khankhel from many years. In the last few months alone, he has survived two assassination attempts. He told me that some elements within the security forces wanted to eliminate him physically due to his reporting. The majority of people in Swat are not happy at all with either the Taliban or the security forces – and sadly, the ultimate beneficiaries of this situation are criminals. Swat has become a paradise of dacoits, car lifters and professional killers. It’s a valley without any law.
I have seen dead bodies of innocent civilians killed by security forces in Kuza Bandai town of Swat with my own eyes. I have also seen some brave shopkeepers of Matta challenging the orders of Taliban in their face without any state protection. When I discussed this situation with the elected member of the National Assembly from Matta Syed Allaudin he gave me a heart-breaking answer. The PPP MNA said: “I have not visited my area even once since I won the election on Feb 18 last year. The Taliban as well as security forces are responsible for destroying peace in Swat. If I cannot enter in my area how can I help my voters there?”
Syed Allaudin, Hameedullah Khan and Musa Khankhel can tell their stories to the world with their own names but many cannot speak their heart because there is nobody to listen them or to provide them any justice. Let me tell you the one tragic story of a religious scholar. I cannot expose the full identity of this religious scholar due to the dangers that he faces but I will narrate his story. It’s not the tragic story of just one man; it’s the tale of an entire nation’s powerlessness.
Recently I met him in Peshawar. Mufti sahib broke into tears as he was telling me his story, but I couldn’t even rise from my chair and offer him some solace. His head bowed, Mufti sahib kept crying, unable to stop. Finally he looked up, grief darkening his face, and said: “I don’t know to whom I should go. Who is there to hear my cry and give me justice, I don’t need justice for myself but for hundreds of thousands of my daughters? They are crying out, but no one is listening.”
Mufti Sahib comes from Mingora where for the past 18 years he had worked at a madressah as a teacher. Recently a woman had come to him, hoping he would find some solution to the problem she faced. She belonged to the village of Kuza Bandai, situated on the banks of the Swat river – which in years gone by was famous for its trout. Her husband had died some years back in a road accident. Since the woman already had an F.A. certificate, she found work in a private school in Mingora which was not all that far, and thus could support herself and her three children while continuing to live in Kuzah Bandai. Eventually she also got a degree in bachelor’s of education. Due to the uncertain law and order situation in the Swat valley during the last sixteen months or so most of the educational institutions were closed. But the schools in Mingora stayed open and the woman continued working.
A few days back, when she returned home in the evening from her school in Mingora, one of her neighbours came to see her. The neighbour told her that now Sharia had been imposed and women were prohibited from going out of homes without any reason, and so from the next morning she would not be able to go to her work. The woman said to her neighbour, with some degree of fear and exasperation: “Look, you know very well why I work. Every morning I take my children with me to Mingora, leave them at their school, and then go to my job at the school where I teach. And when my job finishes I go back and pick up my children and return home. They will starve to death if I stop working because as you know my husband is no longer alive.”
The neighbour told her: “We will not let your children die of hunger but you must not go out anymore.” The self-respecting lady did not wish to live like a beggar, and so the same night she took her children and returned to Mingora, to her sister’s house, and continued working. However, the elements who don’t want women to go out of their homes went to the principal of the school where the woman worked and told the principal that either he closed down the school or fired the woman!
Scared and worried to death, the woman somehow learned that there were in that group of militants some young men who had studied from Mufti sahib in his madressah. She hoped that he might be able to help her. She told her story to Mufti sahib and next day Mufti sahib contacted one of his former students hoping there would be some way out. This former student was from Khwazakhela – which is close to the Karakoram Highway and Battagram district — and had joined the local militants a year ago, after his younger brother was killed in an operation carried out by the security forces. The former student talked to his fellow militants but they refused to budge. It seems that they think they will lose their lose their authority in the area they let the woman work outside her home.
Mufti sahib then went to talk to the militants in person. During the conversation he remarked that it was not jihad when a Muslim fought another Muslim. The commander of the militants got angry and said: “We commemorate the martyrs of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram. Was not the jihad of those martyrs against a government that called itself Islamic?”
Mufti sahib then explained to him the full context of the events of Karbala and told them that their resistance is not Islamic. He tried to explain to them that women had played a key role in the spread or Islam. He told them: “The light of Islam was spread not only by men, some women also contributed courageously by coming out of their homes. History received the great story of the sacrifices of the Karbala martyrs through Hazrat Zainab (RA), daughter of Hazrat Ali (RA). As a child, she was a great favourite of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). She had become even during the life of her father, Hazrat Ali (RA), a learned speaker, and used to expound on the Holy Quran before women. At Karbala, she saw all the male members of her family killed before her eyes. And when she was taken as a prisoner before ‘Ubaidallah bin Ziyad, the ruler of Kufah, she boldly confronted him with words of truth. Then, after an arduous journey, she was brought before Yazid in Damascus. There too she stood boldly and refused to acknowledge him as the caliph. The thundering voice of Hazrat Ali’s daughter frightened Yazid so much that he had her taken back to Madina together with the remaining members of the revered family. Had there not been Zainab the world would not have any awareness of the heights of glory reached by the martyrs of Karbala.”
Mufti sahib further said to the commander: “The history of Islam is filled with stories of other bold and courageous women besides Zainab. Had not these women stepped out of their homes, Islam might not have spread so swiftly.” He also recounted the story of Hazrat Safiya, who was the Prophet’s (PBUH) aunt and a sister of Hazrat Hamza (RA). During the battle with the Jewish tribe, Banu Quraiza, she attacked a spy of the enemy, cut off his head and threw it toward the enemy’s ranks. Then there was Hazrat Umm-e Ammarah, who wielded her sword alongside the Prophet (PBUH) in the Battle of Uhad. And when a stone struck the Prophet (PBUH) and shattered two of his teeth, it was Umm-e Ammarah who then protected the Prophet from an enemy’s attack.”
As Mufti sahib was narrating these incidents to the commander, the latter started accusing him of being an ‘agent’ of the security forces, and had him arrested. Eventually, at the behest of his former students, Mufti sahib regained freedom, but the very next day he was relieved of his duties at the madressah. Not only that, he was also ordered to leave Swat altogether within two days. His efforts to obtain justice on behalf of an oppressed woman ended in making him homeless.
But his tears before me were not on account of his own loss. The reason was that few days earlier the lady who had struggled so hard to take care of her three fatherless children was first declared a prostitute by the militants and then killed. According to Mufti Sahib, Swat was totally peaceful until two years ago. Then the government of Pervez Musharraf destroyed its peace. It spilled the blood of innocent people, and now the same innocent people had become greatest oppressors. They are killing each other in the name of Islam. What a great irony that the dictator who loudly proclaimed his “enlightened moderation” cast Swat into the clutches of religious extremism. And now he is going around the world lecturing on peace.
Mufti Sahib told me: “In Swat, the state and non-state elements are both the oppressors. They are both tyrannical. Our ulema will have to show the same boldness and courage that Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) showed, for Swat has also become another Karbala. The ulema will have to stand up on behalf of those countless women who are being made prisoners in their homes in the name of Islam, and on whom all doors of education are being closed.” If the ulema do not raise a united voice now on behalf of their sisters and daughters there will be no one left to listen to their stories of Hazrat Safiya, Hazrat Umm-e-Ammarah and Hazrat Zainab.
The writer works for Geo TV and hosts Capital Talk. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Protest by the Civil Society in Islamabad. Call for an effective military operation against the Taliban. BBC Urdu Report
Some Comments: (a post-mortem of Samia Raheel Qazi)
Re Live with Talat 12 Jan 2009
Ghost Of TK says: