Monday, July 27, 2009

What was pain for mother

21st July 2009 was my mother's 3rd death anniversary, as always, being the bad daughter I forgot about this. I never realized how depressed I would become doing so! Anyway, as part of growing old I am able to understand lot of things about mother which did not make sense when she was alive!

I learnt why she could bear the pain of being beaten up by her husband but finding out that he has been sleeping with his young secretary broke her heart and soul!!

For her the triple burden of working, managing the household, bearing children with almost no support from anyone was difficult but she did not complain... It was perhaps not as painful as lack of attention and affection from her husband was!!!

I was the bad daughter, always. Always selfish and just took care of my own self but managed to get some education and go ahead in life.... Never took care of her when she was sick!! My younger sister was the one who always looked after her whenever she was sick, but her life was in shambles and she was not doing anything about her... Mother was always upset with her... and to my surprise was ok or even pleased with me... Now, I know why.. For her she did not care if her child took care of HER, for her more important was if the child was able to take care of himself/herself!!!

Before she died, she was in extreme pain and I could see that she felt helpless because of so many reasons (mostly for being cheated by her own brother on her land)... But in that condition, when talking was a big effort she wanted to know if Raazi had uniform for school.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Fouzia's Open Letter to the Media on their coverage of Maulana Abdul Aziz's release

Dr. Fouzia’s Open Letter To The Electronic Media

I was surprised to see the attention, media coverage and airtime directly given to Maulana Abdul Aziz today. Being a concerned citizen who is fearful of the wave of violent takeovers of parts of my beloved country by Taliban, I need to register this request with our media channels.

Just a few days ago the positive coverage given by media to the Nizam e Adal could perhaps be justified given the hope that the peace agreement may stop the violence, given the fact that other methods had failed and given that the Taliban already had a strong hold in those areas. Even then, however, for many of us this was extremely depressing and it felt like a sell out and a bad precedence for future violent takeovers across the country.

In the air time given to Maulana Abdul Aziz, media has inadvertently become an accomplice in bringing the stronghold of Taliban right into the capital, all within a few days of the culmination of their victory in Swat.

We understand that media is free to cover any event and justify it with the standard ethics of journalism. It can make an issue out of a non- issue and a hero out of non-hero, a criminal to some of us, without violating their internal codes. Sometimes sensationalization of issues and graphic depiction of events make us uncomfortable, but we can accept the ‘freedom of media’ justification for it. However we expect you to have maturity in recognizing events that can have explosive implications if fueled through so much media attention.

In the case of the coverage of Maulana Abdul Aziz’s release, khutba and the Friday prayers at Lal masjid the media has helped him to carry his campaign to every nook and corner of the country. In his sermon he directly connected his movement to that of Swat and announced his mission of enforcing a similar system in other parts of the country. What he said once to a few thousand people has been repeated over and over to millions of people, only because of the media. In the garb of shariah we have already seen what he did in Islamabad.. Shops were burnt, people were kidnapped, weapons were used and women were threatened to quit their jobs and follow the system dictated by them. All of these were criminal activities.

In Swat they had to set up an FM channel to spread their message and succeed through the armed assaults on the local population. It seems that in the rest of the country they won’t need any FM channels. They can achieve results that are thousand times more affective, if the electronic media channels continue their indiscriminant coverage of such events.

While we recognize the competition between the channels to report the same event and the desire to turn events into exciting and interesting breaking news, there should be some social responsibility. We are very happy that Pakistan now enjoys a media boom and opportunities to hear diverse point of views, we hope that media will not unnecessarily generate sympathies and make heroes out of people who call for armed violence against all who oppose them.

Dr. Fouzia Saeed

A believer in freedom and democracy Please circulate to others

Friday, April 10, 2009

What am I doing?

From the last few days, I am increasingly thinking that I am wasting time as a PhD student.. What am I learning in the classroom, at my work, from other places in Hawaiʻi.. Nothing that I can think of as useful for better jobs, or the jobs that I can think of... My job currently pays OK (17$ an hour)... But what is my role? I am just a student assistant.. this job could be done by any undergrad.. There is nothing new that I learn.. I have no autonomy to bring my ideas to my work.. If I do they are dismissed by my boss anyway... I feel like I have regressed 15 years in life!!! In terms of studies, I am learning nothing that is of any practical use... At least I canʻt think of any!! I have no consolation.. Yea, may be the nice weather of Hawaiʻi is something for which this is not a bad price.. But I feel really WASTED... I should be improving on the skills and knowledge that I already possess, rather than just try to survive here... I think I should have tried to become ABD long time ago.. Once I am ABD, I should go back to Pakistan and try to find a proper job which gives respect, growth and money, all at the same time, and these are precisely the factors that are missing from the work that I am doing in Hawaiʻi.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Islamic Family Law Reforms, conference in Iran

Conference Report: Islamic Family Law Reforms

By Nigar Ataulla & Yoginder Sikand

Much has been written about Islamic family laws and Muslim women’s status and rights by Western or secular critics and human rights activists, on the one hand, and by traditionalist ulema, on the other. The former are generally bitterly anti-Islamic, and the latter often fiercely patriarchal, and there is absolutely no meeting ground between the two groups. This lack of dialogue between them is one of the major causes for the slow pace of reforms in Muslim family laws in many parts of the world.

It is in this context that a three-day conference recently organized in Tehran, Iran (which I had the good fortune of attending) assumes particular salience. Sponsored by the Tehran-based Institute of Islamic Culture and Thought and the Centre for Women and Family, it brought together over a hundred university scholars, ulema, human rights activists and senior government officials, from mostly from Iran, but also from Lebanon, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, England and India, to discuss various aspects of Islamic family law. More than half the participants were women, including several scholars who had received specialized Islamic legal training in madrasas and universities across Iran. A substantial number of madrasa-trained male Iranian ulema, including some holding leading posts in important government-related organizations, also took part. It was a unique opportunity for university-educated Muslim scholars as well as madrasa-trained Iranian ulema (many of who also have a university training) to interact with each other on a wide range of issues related to Islamic family law and legal reforms. And as an Indian, for me it was the first time to witness a rich and free scholarly discussion between Muslim women rights activists and Islamic scholars and male ulema free of any acrimony and mud-slinging, with both listening respectfully to each other.

In his opening remarks to the conference, Hojjat ul-Islam Ali Rashad, director of the Institute of Islamic Culture and Thought, spoke about the need to understand Islamic family law in the context of what he called the ‘philosophy of the family’ in Islam. In contrast to the West, he said, where family laws and debates about women’s rights centre on the notion of rights alone, Islam stresses the duties as well as rights of both spouses. This point was further elaborated by Maryam Ahmadiya, a senior research scholar and member of the Social and Cultural Revolutionary Council of Iran. She dwelt on what she termed the principle of “ma ‘ruf” or morality, informed principally by religion and urf or socially approved conventions, that should mould family relations, in addition to laws. She defined “ma‘ruf”, which is linked to the Quranic commandment of ‘enjoining what is good’, as moral acts, kindness, loyalty, friendship, respect, moderation, patience, friendship and generosity that, she said, forms the basis of an ideal family, and which, in a sense, are much more crucial than mere laws and legal sanction in maintaining the family unit.

The second session of the conference was devoted to specific legal issues. Farajullah Hedayatnia, an Iranian religious scholar, spoke on the issue of polygamy, focusing particularly on the right that a Muslim wife has to include in the marriage contract a clause forbidding her husband from taking a second spouse. Fatima Bodaqi, an Iranian woman judge from the Iranian seminary town of Qom, spoke about the question of a divorced wife’s residence. She argued that the Islam forbids men from throwing their divorced wives onto the streets, thereby forcing them into destitution. In some specific cases, she argued, the man must leave the house, not the divorced woman. She raised the question of the possibility of a woman enjoying the right to live in the common residence even after divorce till she marries again. In Iran, she said, divorced women can even ask for payment in lieu of wages for work done in the house during the period of the marriage, and this amount is to be decided by the courts.

Hojjat ul-Islam Muhammad Sadeqi, an Iranian Shia alim, presented a paper on ‘temporary marriages’ among some Shias and Sunnis, called muta and misyar respectively, arguing that such arrangements were in some extraordinary conditions a necessity in order to prevent ‘social corruption’. He pointed out that such marriages were not meant to be the norm or to substitute for permanent marriages. A lively discussion followed thereafter, with some participants speaking out against the gross abuse of muta and misyar for sexual exploitation. Aicha al-Hajjami, a speaker from Morocco, argued that there was a need for critical reflection or ijtihad on the matter to stop the practice in accordance with ‘social welfare’ or maslaha. She also elaborated at length on various new provisions in Moroccan law, derived from alternate interpretations of the shariah, that have provided women considerably more rights than before.

The third session of the conference was devoted to discussions on the principles of Islamic family law. Hojjat ul-Islam Ali Doust, a senior professor at the Hauza ul-Ilmi, Qom, spoke about the need for and proper method of engaging in ijtihad on a range of legal issues, including those related to family matters. He pointed out that in the Shia Jafari school of jurisprudence, which is followed in Iran, aql or reason is considered a major source of law and a basis of ijtihad, and said that this could be used in a creative way to deal with a host of legal matters that many Muslim societies are confronted with today, including in the realm of family law. He stressed the need for contextually-relevant ijtihad on family law matters in accordance with the ‘aims of the shariah’ (maqasid-e shariah) and ‘wisdom’ (hikmat), of which justice (adl) is a major component. Muna Zelzela, a woman Member of Parliament from Iraq, stressed the need for Muslim religious scholars and institutions to take issues of gender oppression seriously, calling for dialogue between and benefiting from the legal systems of different Muslim countries to ensure greater gender justice for Muslim women. Hojjat ul-Islam Abdul Ali Tavajjohi, a religious scholar from Qom, dwelt on family courts, and stressed other forms of conflict resolution between spouses before their cases are taken to such courts. Masood Noori, a Professor at Qom University, spoke about rights of children and the concept of children’s ‘best interest’ in Islamic jurisprudence, and called for benefiting from international rights discourses in this matter. Mohammad Mahdi Meqdadi, another legal specialist from Qom, spoke about the prohibition of violence against children in both Islamic as well as international law. Gholam Reza Peivandi, a student of criminal law, presented a paper on children with incompetent parents or guardians and legal issues related to this from an Islamic perspective. It is the duty of the state, he said, to protect such children, and, if need be, even to punish such parents or guardians. He spoke about a bill recently ratified by the Iranian Parliament setting out a comprehensive list of rights of children, including protection from parental neglect and abuse. My own presentation was about a leading Indian Shia alim, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, and his vision of a Quranically-grounded theology of gender justice.

The valedictory address to the conference was delivered by Gholam-Hossein Elham, the Iranian Justice Minister. He spoke about how Muslim countries and communities in other parts of the world could benefit from the remarkable progress made by Iranian Muslim women in various spheres, including education and employment, in the years following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Like several speakers before him, he invoked the Islamic principle of ijtihad which, he said, could enable Islamic jurisprudence, including on family matters, to provide answers to new and pressing challenges.

The conference ended with a formal declaration to establish a permanent secretariat, based in Iran, to work on Islamic family law matters and to convene an international conference every two years on the subject, in which Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, ulema and human rights activists could share their views and experiences.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sri Lankan Team Shooting

I condemn the shootings on Sri Lankan team in Lahore, near the Gaddafi stadium on 2nd March 2009 and salute the bravery of Pakistani police who gave their lives to save the guests! They are the unsung heroes who we all will conveniently forget while debating who and why of the shootings and the implications for Pakistan's political and cricket future!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Swat FAQs by IRIN News

LAHORE, 24 February 2009 (IRIN) -

1. Where is Swat?

The mountain valley of Swat, covering 10,360 sqkm, is in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, about 170km north-east of the provincial capital, Peshawar, and about 160km north-west of Islamabad. With its clean river, open fields and forests, tourism has traditionally been the main source of revenue for many of its 1.8 million people, most of whom are ethnic Pashtuns.

2. History

In 327 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the area. Around the second century BC, the valley was occupied by Buddhists. From the eighth century onwards, Arabs started to exert pressure from the West and in 1001, the Afghan ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni, launched several invasions of the Indian sub-continent, conquering Swat.

The British colonial rulers of the Indian sub-continent from 1858 to 1947 recognised the state as one of many princely regions in India in 1926.

At Partition in 1947, when Pakistan broke away from India and independence was gained from British rule, the ruler of Swat ceded the state to Pakistan while retaining considerable autonomy. The princely state was abolished in 1969 by the Pakistan government.

3. Present status

Swat is an administrative district of NWFP. The capital is Saidu Sharif but the main city is Mingora, adjacent to Saidu.

4. Origins of the conflict

In 1992, Sufi Mohammad Khan established the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat, as a party seeking an Islamic order. The party rose to national prominence in 1995, when Sufi Mohammad Khan demanded the immediate imposition of Sharia, Islamic law. Violence followed as paramilitary forces began an operation against Khan.

After Khan's imprisonment in 2002, his son-in-law, Maulana Fazalullah, a former chairlift operator, took over the TNSM at 28. By 2007 he had aligned himself with the hardline Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), setting up dozens of illegal radio stations in Swat from which he preached his message of jihad (holy war).

5. Who are the main combatants?

Fighting in Swat began after Fazalullah in July 2007 ordered supporters to avenge a security force operation to clear militants out of a mosque in Islamabad. Since then, paramilitary forces and troops of the Pakistan army have been fighting militants led by Fazalullah. A brief truce reached in May 2008 brought relative peace but fighting resumed in August. Some 4,000 militants are said to be battling 12,000 troops

6. How many people have died?

There is no independent confirmation of the number of casualties. The military in January 2009 said 142 soldiers and paramilitary troops had died since the conflict resumed in August 2008. In 2007 the military confirmed the deaths of 230 civilians and 90 military personnel. At the end of 2007 an activist of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Swat said at least 400 civilians had died and 1,000 houses destroyed [].

7. How many people have been displaced?

According to rights groups and the media, approximately 800,000 of Swat's 1.8 million people have fled. With intensified fighting from February 2009, as the Pakistan government promised to retake control of the valley from the militants, more people are reported to have left. Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been set up in Mingora and other locations by the provincial government.

8. Why is there a threat to girls' education?

Fazalullah opposes education for girls. Since the conflict in Swat began, 170 to 200 schools for girls have been torched or bombed []. At the end of 2008, Fazalullah banned education for girls. Since then, 80,000 girls are still not in class as schools felt too threatened to re-open after the winter holiday.

Many had dropped out even before in fear of the militants, who in February said they would allow education for girls till Grade 5. The government has promised schools in Swat will re-open soon. Some schools have resumed classes after a truce. Women in Swat have also been ordered via radio stations run by militants to give up work and not to leave home. Men have been ordered to grow beards and wear prayer caps. Some have been killed for failing to comply with these orders.

9. What is the nature of peace efforts?

The NWFP government has agreed a truce with Sufi Muhammad Khan of the TNSM, whereby Sharia law would be imposed and both sides lay down arms. People in the Valley have welcomed the ceasefire. However, two previous accords along similar lines have broken down.

The abduction and killing of a prominent journalist days after the truce [] aggravates those fears. Many Pakistanis have criticised the deal, with HRCP warning it offers no guarantees to protect basic liberties and rights of groups, including women. Friction between different militant factions adds to the risks of the truce failing, though for the present it has enabled girls to return to school.

Sources: Newsline magazine; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, State of Human Rights in Pakistan Annual Reports 1992-2007; Dawn; The News; The Daily Times; IRIN; Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2008.


© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My mother's education and career

My mother rarely went to school. Not because she did not want to, but because she was needed at home for household chores. And at that time, in the village, even to be enrolled in a school for a girl was a big achievement. So she was content with the arrangement. And she went (or was sent) to school on occasions make sure that her name is not struck off or to take the exams. Her father, a literate man and also a teacher helped her out sometimes at home. She was bright and very interested in whatever she was learning, so despite the irregularities and mostly relying on reading the books on her own, she was able to finish high school and get enrolled in college in Comilla. She was seventeen around that time. About the same time her family thought she is getting too old to get married, and hence a marriage was arranged and she was married off. Of course the marriage did not involve her consent. She had not even seen a picture of her would be husband. Her husband, my father was working in the West Pakistan and he left after the wedding, and my mother was able to continue with her college. Afterwards she moved with him to West Pakistan. She wanted to become a mother but for some reason she was unable to conceive for a while, so she felt she is wasting time at home and was suggested by a family friend to teach in a school. She was the first women in her family to do any work outside her home! She started working, but at the same time she continued reading course work material for bachelors exam. She took the exams just before I was born, but she was unable to pass English (a large majority of students in Pakistan fail in English subject in the BA exams). But then, she had me and there were no role models for her to push towards the value of higher education. She never tried to complete her degree, thinking that her job is only to pass time (not a career) and she is responsibility of her husband. Not her fault. That is how most women think in our country even now a days. So, her education and career both were incidental, not necessary. But, when she became a widow at the age of 31, with 3 kids, no savings or property, and not very helpful in-laws, she realized that whatever job she started as a time pass, is now the only way to survive, but a yoke on her neck which could not take off even when she was dying!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Seems like a good film from Pakistan.

IRIN Timeline on Swat turbulance

PAKISTAN: Timeline on Swat Valley turbulence

LAHORE, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) - Understanding the humanitarian situation in turbulent Swat Valley, some 160km from Islamabad in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), requires some knowledge of the political background to the current tensions and violence.

In 1995 radical clerical leader Sufi Muhammad Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat Valley, demanded imposition of Islamic law in the area. Violence followed as the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, began an operation against Khan. Tourism, a major source of income, was disrupted and 13 militants died in fighting.

After the operation, the NWFP government agreed to enforce Shariah law in Malakand Division (in Swat District). TNSM's main demand - the replacement of regular courts with Islamic courts - was partially met, but arguments over the peace deal led to sporadic violence.

In 2001 Sufi Muhammad Khan took a force of some 10,000 people from Swat and the tribal areas to fight against US forces invading Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 were killed, while others were jailed in Afghanistan or sent back to Pakistan, including Sufi Muhammad Khan, who was imprisoned. The TNSM was banned by the government.

In 2002 Sufi Muhammad Khan's son-in-law, the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazalullah, emerged as a force in Swat and set up his headquarters at Imam Dehri. Linked to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he stepped up efforts to impose hardline Islam.

In January 2003 incidents of violence began to increase in Swat. The Afghan writer Fazal Wahab, whose work was viewed as being critical of Osama bin-Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Swat by unidentified assailants.

Between 2004 and 2007 Maulana Fazalullah set up at least 30 illegal FM radio stations to get his message across. Girls' education and any active role for women in society was opposed. Several schools, music shops and barbers' businesses were attacked.


July 2007 - Violence in Swat increases after Fazalullah urges his followers to launch 'jihad' (holy war) to avenge an operation carried out by the Pakistan military against the Lal Masjid (mosque) in Islamabad, where clerical leaders were accused by the government of harbouring "terrorists".

4 July 2007 - Four civilians are killed and two police wounded by a roadside bomb. In a separate incident a policemen is killed and four others injured in a rocket attack on a police station in the Matta area of Swat District.

12 July 2007 - A suicide bomber kills three police.

13 July 2007 - President Pervez Musharraf approves a plan to deploy paramilitary forces in Swat to crush growing militancy. Troops are positioned in Swat.

15 July 2007 - At least 13 paramilitary personnel and six civilians, including three children, are killed and more than 50 people injured at Matta in Swat District when two suicide bombers ram two cars packed with explosives into an army convoy.

August 2007 - NGOs and international humanitarian organisations are asked by the administration to leave Swat after threats by militants. Attacks on several girls' schools are reported.

30 August 2007 - Seven security forces' personnel are killed as militants attack a checkpoint in Swat. Owners of video centres and barber's shops receive threatening letters.

21 September 2007 - Maulana Fazalullah urged his supporters to attack government officials after a demand to release three militants held after a hotel bombing incident was rejected by the authorities.

October 2007 - Fazalullah sets up his own Islamic courts.

21 October 2007 - Eighteen soldiers and two civilians die and 35 others, including nine civilians, are injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying paramilitary personnel at Nawan Killi, about 1km from Swat city.

26-29 October 2007 - Fierce clashes erupt between troops and militants in Swat, leaving at least 29 dead. Thirteen security personnel are executed by militants.

1-2 November 2007 - Fighting resumes after a brief ceasefire. 60-70 people die after a clash in Khwazakhela town; 48 troops who surrendered to militants are paraded in public.

3-6 November 2007: Militants extend their hold over Swat, capturing key towns including Madyan and Kalam.

November 2007: The Pakistan military intensifies its operation in Swat. Helicopter gunships pound villages. Thousands flee the valley. There are conflicting accounts of casualties, but dozens are feared dead.

28 November - 6 December 2007: Security forces say militants have been forced out of Swat and many key leaders arrested. Key centres such as Imam Dehri are seized. Hundreds are feared dead in the operation; 500,000 of Swat's 1.8 million people are reported to have fled.

23 December 2007 - Fourteen die in a suicide attack on a military convoy near Mingora, Swat's main city. Sporadic violence continues in Swat, including attacks on shops, schools and government buildings.


January 2008 - Low-level violence between troops and militants continues in Swat.

29 February 2008 - Forty killed and more than 75 wounded when a suicide bomber targets the funeral of a police officer in Mingora.

1 March 2008: Militants behead a 22-year-old man accused of passing on information to the security forces.

April 2008: NWFP government launches a fresh peace process, setting up a committee to initiate dialogue with different groups of militants. Militant leaders, including Fazalullah, re-enter Swat. Maulana Sufi Muhammad Khan of the banned TNSM is released.

21 May 2008 - Taliban militants operating under Fazalullah in Swat District sign a 16-point peace agreement with the NWFP government and agree to disband their militia; they also denounce suicide attacks and stop attacks on the security forces and government buildings.

June-July 2008 - Attacks on schools and other buildings continue in Swat. Militants say the government refused to keep its part of the peace deal by retaining troops. At least 50 girls' schools are reported to have been attacked by militants in 2008. Thousands of girls quit school, fearing for their safety.

27-30 July 2008 - Fierce clashes erupt again, after incidents involving the killing of military personnel.

August-December 2008 - The military moves tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters into Swat to combat militants. Hundreds are reported killed in heavy clashes. Reports of atrocities by militants increase - including the killing of women who decline to stop work and public beheadings of those accused of spying. Human rights activists say 60 percent of Swat's 1.8 million people have fled. Thousands of homes are reported to have been damaged and 150 schools destroyed.

December 2008: Press reports say the militants control 75 percent of Swat. Fazalullah announces a ban on education for girls.

29 January 2009: Pakistan's government announces a new strategy to combat militancy in Swat and pledges to ensure girls resume schooling. Schools for girls remain closed in Swat after the winter break leaving 80,000 girls out of school. Militants are reported to have seized control of almost all of Swat.

31 January 2009: Fazalullah, leader of the TTP in Swat, says he will relax the ban on education to allow girls to attend school up to grade 5. The ban had been met by a nationwide outcry.

February 2009: Renewed military offensives are reported against militants as the Pakistan Army pledges to regain control of Swat. Mingora said to be under government control. Fierce fighting continues and more people flee.

(Sources: Dawn, The News, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan State of Human Rights in Pakistan annual reports, and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi)


© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shalamar Gardens

Shalamar Gardens
Originally uploaded by BeeCay

Pakistan known mainly for its problems with terrorism is home to several majestic pieces of architecture!!! This is just one...