February 01, 2007 Thursday  Muharram 11, 1428 A.H

 

 
 
Reining in 'immorality'

The wretched face of Karachi's underworld

A man larger than life The torch bearer of Progressivism

 


Reining in 'immorality'

 

By Naveed Hussain

 

Zina, Transnational Feminism and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women

By: Shahnaz Khan

Publishers: Oxford University Press

Price: Rs 250

Pgs: 152

October 16, 2006 was a watershed day in the lawmaking history of Pakistan when the Hudood Ordinance, the most oppressive, controversial and contested piece of legislation in Pakistan, was amended by the Parliament despite stiff opposition from the religious conservatives. And a new law, the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006, was promulgated--much to the joy of women's rights campaigners, nongovernmental organisations, and liberal-minded enlightened women at large.

Thousands of women, majority of them illiterate, marginalised and improvised, have been charged and incarcerated under the Hudood Ordinance since its promulgation in 1979 by the military dictator General Ziaul Haq. Although most of these women were subsequently released for lack of evidence, they spent months, or in some cases years, in jail before trial. Similarly, after being "stigmatised" hundreds of these "unclaimed" women land either in prostitution dens or in state-run darul amans, with little hope of a respectable life.

Although Gen Zia died in an air crash in 1989 along with some other military top brass, his legacy of repressive laws remains. The subsequent democratic governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif could not dare to touch the Hudood Ordinance, albeit the former did take some steps for improving women's status in the country.

Taking advantage of the lacunae in the Zina Ordinance, part of the Hudood Ordinance, people have widely (mis)used it for the "moral regulation" of their women, or punishing their "disobedient daughters, errant wives and others". Women's rights organisations, both national and international, had been campaigning for the repeal of this "sacrosanct" law ever since its promulgation. Finally, their efforts met some success when the General Pervez Musharraf-led government amended, though not repealed, the Hudood Ordinance as part of the General's theory of enlightened moderation.

Much has been written and said about the excesses of Hudood Ordinance, particularly the Zina Ordinance, but there is need for further research. Zina, Transnational Feminism and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women, the book under review, is an erudite research by Shahnaz Khan, a professor in the Women's Studies and Global Studies Programme at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, to study the Zina Ordinance, its legal implications for Pakistani women and the socio-economic problems compounding the issue. However, she thinks if the Ordinance remains de-contextualised her account threatens to reinforce stereotypes of muslims (she doesn't capatilise "muslim," "hindu," "christian", etc, to minimise sensational religious labels) and third world peoples as barbaric and uncivilised.

Investigating the historical association of religion with the forces of power in Pakistan and also with the international power brokers in the region, Khan says the Zina Ordinance comes out of a social, historical, and political process that connects religion to nation building. These connections, albeit present since the inception of Pakistan, have been intensified during the rule of Gen Ziaul Haq.

Gen Ziaul Haq, who captured power by ousting the democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto through a military coup, attributed many of Pakistan's social and political problems to an "un-Islamic way of life", identifying a lack of individual and societal morals as responsible for social woes. The solution to these ills, Gen Zia believed, was a programme of Islamisation, the Nizam-e-Mustapha.

Islamisation of Gen Zia, who seemed deeply influenced by the puritanical ideology of Jamat-i-Islami founder Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdidi, included a form of collective purification through the removal of impure and undesirable elements from society, either by death or imprisonment. Beginning in 1979, the brutal fist of the Pakistan army enforced a series of laws and ordinances, including the Hudood Ordinance, to ensure this purification.

The Hudood Ordinance deals with the offences of prohibition (consumption of drugs and alcohol), zina (rape and fornication), theft, and qazf (perjury). The Zina Ordinance, among other things, covers adultery, fornication, rape, and prostitution under the rubric zina and treats them as offenses against the state. The Ordinance makes no distinction among the levels of proof required to sentence someone for rape or adultery.

Women's rights campaigners raised a great hue and cry against the Hudood Ordinance, particularly the "zina" or adultery law. The Women's Action Forum (WAF), an important women's group of Pakistan, was formed in 1979 to muster support against the Ordinance. However, the controversial Ordinance remained promulgated due to a host of reasons.

Firstly, according to Khan, Gen Zia's tenure in power coincided with a US policy of containment of communism, including the influences of the Soviet Union as well as those emanating from left-leaning indigenous organisations. As part of this policy US foreign policy actively supported Islamic fundamentalists who aligned themselves with the West. Subsequently, Gen Zia soon became an indispensable US ally in the war against the communists in Afghanistan. His alliance with the United States largely shielded him from international criticism regarding his oppressive religion-based policies and ordinances.

Secondly, Gen Zia's Islamisation process drew a huge support from religious groups in the country, which in turn contributed to the perpetuation and legalisation of his rule.

Thirdly, the poor socio-economic conditions of women and control, or commodification of their sexuality, and the patriarchy-state collusion for the moral regulation of women kept the Ordinance intact. Fourthly, structural issues such as increasing indebtedness and rising militarisation, practices that might implicate politicians and state officials.

For this edifying research, spanning over five years, Khan interviewed women incarcerated under the Zina Ordinance in the Kot Lakhpat prison of Lahore and Karachi Central Jail. She also interviewed the women sheltered in a Lahore darul aman who were either "punished" for defying patriarchal authority, or rejected by their families after their release from prison. Khan also briefly narrates the heart-wrenching stories of some of these women, and cites variety of reasons for their plight including lacunae in the laws, women's economic dependency, illiteracy, commodification of their sexuality, poverty, flawed judicial process, corrupt police, etc.

Khan also examines the space and conditions of women incarcerated for zina. She identifies the circumstances under which she was given access to women in prison or the state-run darul aman at Lahore. However, the researcher regrets that she couldn't gain access to the families of any of these women.

Khan argues that the narratives of these women, majority of whom had been sent to jail by their families for not obeying family wishes, suggest that they are not helpless victims of their relatives. Instead, the process of incarceration politicises many of the women, and they frequently use the spaces of their confinement to upgrade their literacy and income-generating skills as they equip themselves to negotiate better bargain with patriarchy.

She also examines the production and reception of knowledge in the West about women in the third world, identifying a productive tension between living in the West and doing research in the third world. She concludes that transnational feminist solidarity can help women identify the linkages between the local and global and challenge oppressive practices internationally.

According to Parin Dossa, author of Politics and Poetics of Migration: Narratives of Iranian Women in the Diaspora, "Khan's emphasis on reading the zina laws within a larger politicised context, her problematisation of the role of the native informant, and her argument to transcend binary thinking gives a cutting edge to this important work."

A scholarly, compelling and insightful research, which provides a contextualised study of the Zina Ordinance. Khan's innovative approach coupled with the empirical information make the book a must-read for women's rights campaigners, and students of Muslim law and gendre studies. The study would have been comprehensive had the researcher been given access to the families of victim women.

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The wretched face of Karachi's underworld

 

By Maliha Bhimjee

 

Kolachi Dreams

By: Nadya A.R.

Publishers: Sama Editorial &

Publishing Services

Price: Rs 425

Pgs: 318

Kolachi Dreams, a tale of revenge, intrigue, aspirations lust, power and torment, bares the wretched face of Karachi's underworld and strips the masqueraded elite of society, exposing them in all their helpless nakedness.

Set in the here and now, Nadya A R's novel, vacillates between Karachi's daunting underworld, steeped in mindless violence and crime and the frivolous escapades of the rich marred with intrigue, occasionally retiring to the laid back lands of Dera Nau, where battered characters often seek emotional refuge.

"Instead of holding a paintbrush, BK's ill-fated hands had firmly clasped a gun and painted the city red with human blood." The protagonist BK is a sorry product of unfortunate circumstances, which has added layers of indifference to his dying soul.

While seeking to avenge his young sister's rape and consequential death at the hands of a feudal lord and urban parasite, Bahadur Shah, alias 'Bubbles', BK gets entrapped in the bottomless pit of the sinister underworld.

Finding himself embroiled in a Jihad mission, in which he is clueless, BK is rescued time and again by Maulvi Saab's religious charms, while his fate dangles on a string in the hands of the dons, Munna Bhai and Bara Bhai.

Adding a touch of glamour, is Twinkle, a two-bit singing sensation, who climbs her way up to wealth and fame by warming the beds of her agents, finally seeking security in the arms of the merciless "Bubbles", as his second wife, in the city. Twinkle, disillusioned with the hypocritical ways of her adulterous husband, whom she once adored, and his band of vile mistresses and cronies, falls into an easy trap of alcohol and cocaine.

She finds a sympathetic accomplice and confidante in BK, who has ironically been hired by her ruthless husband, to do away with her while. BK has his own agenda to settle scores with Bubbles.

A slow start soon gives way to a racy plot that is sizzling in its tight weave. Nadya's flair for the language, brings to life a myriad of characters, whom she paints brazenly in flaming hues. Her ability to deftly interweave the destinies of her players makes for an interesting read.

As each player grapples with his complexes and ghosts of the past, seeking salvation and peace, more skeletons are pulled out from the closest, against a backdrop of scandalous liaisons and a bloody power struggle for political, social and economic gain.

Nadya's sensitive portrayal of women in rural feudal society, who are squashed into oblivion, mentally as well as physically, vis-a-vis their social climbing counterparts, who willingly sell their bodies and souls to the highest bidder, is sure to touch a raw nerve in her female readers.

The parallels drawn between the city of Karachi and her progeny BK, both desperate souls clinging to fragments of hope, but with a determination to trudge along, is clever as well as touching.

A dramatic novel, Kolachi Dreams is a chilling ride through suicide missions, political intrigue, elusive love, extra-marital affairs, religious mystics, feudal barbarism and the antics of social 'wannabes', with a daring and insight that is remarkable for so young a writer.

Along the twists in the tale, one cannot help but resign to the fact that it is fate alone that seals the destiny of men. And those who dare to pursue their dreams are the ones that emerge unscathed, even though a bit ruffled, sometimes.

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A man larger than life

 

By Rauf Sheikh

It was in the fifties when Rehman Muznib wrote number of short stories one after the other which were published in the top literary magazines of that time and received concurrence from different quarters. Rehman Muznib started his literary journey in the thirties but he startled the readers when his master piece short stories 'Putli Jan', 'Bala Khana', and 'Gushti' surfaced. The echo of these stories was heard for a very long time in the literary circles and now these are named in the classics. Muznib takes his characters from all walks of life, however, his short stories of the fifties and the sixties revolve around society where the prostitute is seen playing the major role and the characters around her are seen with equal force. Muznib had prisoned this society in his short stories which no more exists today. Some say that Muznib had gone into too much details. For certain, without talking about vendors, policemen, water-bearers, sightseer, flower-seller, drum-beater, musician, tea house, pimp, etc. The narration of prostitute is incomplete. A prostitute cannot be taken in isolation, her environment is equally important and Muznib is aware of this aspect. He also made the difference between courtesan, prostitute, hooker, call girl, bawed, etc, in his short stories. 'Putli Jan' was a great story written by him on a character which was a eunuch and this was the first time that the third sex was given representation in Urdu literature. The story received great appreciation from all literary corners.

It was because of these stories that he was labeled as the writer of prostitutes -- a wrong perception about him since he equally did justice with "Ram Peyari", "Lal Gulehri", "Bewa", "Jalti Basti", "Phirki", "Raqasa-e-Falak", "Nokari" etc. where the characters from the life outside the brothel were selected by Muznib.

Most of the people consider that Muznib only authored short stories and drama, writing on a variety of subjects, including Greek/Egypt/Hindu mythology, anthropology, Punjabi literature, radio, translation, ecology, Seerat, Sufism, poetry, Iqbaliaat, etc. After going through his work, it appears that he did nothing but read and wrote in his 67 years of literary life.

His immaculate diction, wide vocabulary and unique style make him a great write. His contribution to Urdu literature can never be ignored . "Putli Jan" is his matchless short story on the third sex --the most valuable research work on drama and and is the only comprehensive reference book available in Urdu. His books, "Deen-e-Sahari, Dev Mala Aur Islam" and "Jado Aur Jado Ki Rasmain" concerning primitive dwelling were again the only Urdu books first found in the fifties. In these books Muznib had chosen the magic which was the prevailing religion of the primitive era with its branches, solar and fertility cult, rituals, shaman's practices, charms amulets and incantations and evaluated its impact on the social, cultural and scientific aspects of human life. He traces back magic's history to 10,000 years and evaluates its changing facets and also takes along the religions/mythologies that come on way of this journey and ultimately brings it to the real truth where Islam rejects all evils and the legacy of paganism. He very sincerely and logically convinces his readers that Islam is the only practical religion of peace for the human being. He had made a good comparison of Islam with other religions/mythologies.

The learned background of his home seems to be helping him a lot. He hails from the family of Shams-ul-Ulema Mufti Muhammad Abdullah who has been an authority on Shariah-e-Muhammadi (SAW).

"Botika" is the first Punjabi translation of Aristotle's famous book "Poetics" by Rehman Muznib.

His book "Musalmano Kay Tehzibi Karnamay", the translation of "Glory of Islam" was given the first prize by "Writer's Guild" in 1971.

Having an overview of Muznib's real life, he is a man found without lobby, lacks hypocrisy, keeps distance from the techniques of self-projection and has no interest but to read and write. He has enriched Urdu literature with his writings with consistency. Very rightly admitted by Dr Shamim Hanfi of "Jamia Delhi" that Urdu fiction without him (Rehman Muznib) would never have been what it is today. But, I feel that Urdu fiction if replaced by Urdu literature would be the most approperiate.

"Let there be no trade unionism and party politics in the field of literature. Literature should remain literature and there should be no prefix or suffix with it. Nobody has the right to propagate communism under the umbrella of progressivisim," says Rehman Muznib. He wrote point to point two articles in the fifties against those politician writers and exposed (in his reckoning) their inconsistencies and confused thoughts charactersing the creed of "progressivisim" and presented the psychoanalytical explanation for this chaos and confusion. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some writers defected but some still clung to the theory, however, some tried to interpret "progressivisim" to their advantage. For definite, after writing these articles rehman Muznib mde his permanent enemies amongst his colleagues who didn't spare him till his death. The policy adopted by his colleagues was "no comments" and they also did not let their disciples to comment. But, the "Darvesh" Rehman Muznib was never disheartened and humbly continued in his pursuits in the field of literature and knowledge. "Tujay Hum Vali Samajtay" is a good collection of articles written by emanant writers and scholars on Muznib and his work. The book has been compiled by Dr Anwar Sadeed. A number of good articles have been written on him since his death which should also be included in it's next edition.

Rehman Muznib kicked off his literary career with poetry and prose writing in the thirties. Play writing was added later. In 1934, his first drama entitled "Jahan Ara" was enacted at the stage of Aziz Theatre now known as Pakistan Talkies in the walled city. During the late forties he concentrated on prose which was at the expense of poetry. He also wrote a lot for all India Radio and Radio Pakistan Lahore which included drama, features, children's stories, literary talks and anti-Indian propaganda articles during the 1965 and 1971 wars.

A good job done by Muznib's elder son, Mufti Zarreen Bakht, is that he formed the Rehman Muznib Adbi Trust in the year 2000 soon after the death of his father. The Trust had published twelve books so far and a number of books are in the pipeline. The last book published by the Trust was "Pinjaray Kay Punchi" (short stories) in the year 2003 and no new book in the last four years had come to the market. It will be a great service by the Trust if the complete work of Rehman Muznib is published so that the students of Urdu literature can be benefited.

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The torch bearer of Progressivism

 

By Dr. Muhammad Reza Kazimi

 

Mughanni-I-Aatish Nafas: Sajjad Zaheer

By: Sibte Hasan

Edited by: Syed Jaffar Ahmed

Publishers: Maktaba-e Danyal

Victoria Chamber 2

Abdullah Haroon Road

Sadar, Karachi

 

Price: Rs150

Pgs: 111

 

Syed Sibet Hasan, by writing on Syed Sajjad Zaheer was bound to produce an invaluable document. Few knew Sajjad Zaheer better than Sibte Hasan and though political conditions separated the comrades from 1955 to 1973, but they had a long re-union in Ashkabad (then in the USSR) shortly before Sajjad Zeheer's death. As was befitting, it was Sibte Hasan who presided over condolence meetings for Sajjad Zaheer in Pakistan. Quite oddly, Sibte Hasan had a brief re-union with Akhtar Hussain Raipuri shortly before his own death, and Akhtar Husain Raipuri had to preside over the condolence meeting for Syed Sibte Hasan.

This bare account does not reveal the intricate relations that had developed between the stalwarts of The Progressive Writers Movements over the years. Thus funeral orations, forewords and reviews represent one layer of appreciation, valuable as testimonials, but neither as profound as memoirs, nor as incisive as literary criticism. This is what Sibte Hasan's present book would amount to, but fortunately, because of the diligence of a third Syed, Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed, a manuscript of Sibte Hasan's study of Sajjad Zaheer was discovered from his effects, and it is this unpublished, intimate piece of writing, not because of being a discovery, but because of its candour, that is fascinating and illuminating.

The third casualty after Sajjad Zaheer and Syed Sibte Hasan was the USSR itself. Initially it appeared that the International Communist Movement had collapsed, and with it the ideological base of the Progressive Writers Movement. Shortly afterwards began a regeneration of Leftist sentiments. When the Russian army went without salaries for months, the price economy system came in for its share of criticism. Nearer in time and nearer home, erstwhile conservative forces were found bemoaning de-nationalization and privatization, and it is only very recently that an economic journalist felt the need to recall that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had nationalized various sectors, because he had undertaken to do so in his election manifesto. So what we are reviewing is not a dead document. The arguments featured in this volume are current, and if two parts are slightly incongruent they are a proof of its authenticity.

Let us begin by taking notice of Sibte Hasan's review of Raushnai or his introduction to its second edition. Raushnai cab be considered the history an ideology, or the ideological history of a movement. Sibte Hasan's remarks are rather circumspect:

Raushnaai is an impressionist survey of Progressive literature. Although this book has almost wholly been written from memory, because Sajjad Zaheer did not have the documents of the Association (as the book was written while he was in jail), nor were reference works easily available.

In "The Defence of the Ghazal and Hafiz", Sibte Hasan does not dwell on the criticism leveled on the ghazal either as a form or as a genere, but goes directly to Hafiz, and highlights those of his verses that have a social bearing. This seems a deliberate omission. In Adab Aur Raushan Khyali (also edited by Dr Syed Jaffar Ahemd) he links the survival of literary forms to their milieu and even deprecates the modern Urdu elegy. Syed Sibe Hasan concludes basically on he note that:

It is said Hafiz was an escapist, and that his poetry was like opium, which paralyses humanity and impels it to live a life of moral decadence. Sajjad Zaheer has very forcefully refuted these baseless accusations.

It becomes manifest that Syed Sajjad Zhaeer was not refuting Zoe Ansari here but actually Iqbal, who had incurred the wrath of traditional litterateurs for voicing exactly the criticism that Sibte Hasan mentions. However Zikr-I-Hafiz provides a clue to another aspect of the literary debate. Firstly, if Hafiz is held up as an exemplar of literature, what is the ideological basis of the Progressive Writers Association? We now turn to the unpublished manuscript:

Banne Bhai and I had studied Lenin's book diligently; but the conclusion we derived was the exact opposite of Lenin's teachings. We imagined our wishes to be reality, and despite Lenin's repeated admonitions, we became victims of the extremism of the left. We not only became victims, but also sought justification for extremism room Lenin's book.

Since Sajjad Zaheerhd written Zikr-I-Hafiz, it is not proper to accuse him of extremism. Indeed he admonished Progressive poets for being didactic and asked them to pay attention to their art. Zikr-I-Hafiz raises issues of both extremism and traditionalism. In Adab Aur Raushan Khyali cited above, Sibte Hasan said that the extremism of the Bhimi or Lahore Conference was a reaction to the objective conditions of the time. Secondly, in the manuscript itself he recounts that he dissuaded Sajjad Zaheer from composing ghazals, which had no originality either in feeling or imagination. Eventually Sajjad Zaheer came out wit a collection of prose-poems Pighla-nilam years after his release and commented on the constrictions of traditional forms.

Now about the revelations that Sibte Hasan has made. It was Sajjad Zaheer who was instrumental in getting Mian Iftikharuddin to resign from Congress and join the Muslim League. His is corroborated by the Jinnah-Liaquat correspondence where Liaquat wrote to Jinnah that Sajjad Zaheer and Mian Iftikharuddin had called on him and were proceeding to Bombay where they hoped to meet Jinnah. The correspondence did no mention that Sajjad Zaheer was Sir Wzir Hasan's son. Subsequently Sajjad Zaheer dissuaded Mian Iftikharuddin from launching a new party with H S Shrawardy. Sibe Hasan's attitude at the Rawalpindi conspiracy 1951 is succinctly stated:

Our argument was that a social revolution cannot take place because of the conspiracy of a handful of soldiers.

Had this been the prevailing sentiment the Communist Party of Pakistan liaison with Akbar Khan would not have proceeded so far as it did. All those who served out heir sentences, distanced themselves from a coup d'etat attempt upon release. Why Akbar Khan contacted the CPP, a weak underground organisation and did no contact the erstwhile opponents of the Muslim League like the Red Shirts, will never be known. Retrospection of those indicated in the Rawalpindi conspiracy was never laced with rancor. Nevertheless there is no passage in Syed Sibte Hasan's recollections that breaks through a hair line crack in the camaraderie of the Left.

Sajjad Zaher also faced these difficulties. He had made a diligent study of Marxism, he tried to apply Marist principles also. He fully believed in class struggle, social revolution, and in the (ultimate) victory of Communism. His loyalty and worship of principles were above suspicion; but in spite of this, he was not qualified for the task that had been assigned to him, and he himself was conscious of his shortcoming...but the difficulty was that in Pakistan, there was no other evolutionary who had even those proficiencies that Banne Bhai had.

Considered on the basis of what it reveals, this book is a landmark in the ideological history of Pakistan.

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