Ex-playboy and rich girl boy-toy, Imran Khan, now devout and merciless.
The once-notorious British man about town Imran Khan, formally Great Britain’s most notorious playboy cricketer and hailed “moderate,” has completed his radicalization. The now sharia-enforcing Pakistani politician was once the moderate Muslim archetype, the standard bearer of what the West believes is “the answer” to the difficulties we face melding Islam and the West (freedom and submission).
How does the left reconcile the path of Imran Khan — from moderate, hotshot, womanizing Muslim to devout, sharia-enforcing Pakistani politician? This is their stubborn delusion, no matter how improbable or illogical — but reality.
Khan was educated at Pakistan’s prestigious Aitchison College, at boarding school in England and then at Oxford University. He married a creme de la creme of British heiress Jemina Khan, he eldest child of Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart and financier Sir James Goldsmith. Her mother is from an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family, the daughter of the Marquess of Londonderry. Her father was the son of luxury hotel tycoon and former Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Major Frank Goldsmith.
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In yet another absurd chain of events in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’, the ruling party’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa made it mandatory for girls in public schools to ‘cover themselves up’ with a gown, abaya, veil, or chadar. The reason behind the decision gave a lot away: the government, which had already circulated its order in a district a couple of days ago, believed its measure would protect the girls from “unethical incidents”.
The Imran Khan government, which is responsible for the safety of young girls and boys, hides under tradition, religious and cultural values to pass its responsibility onto the children themselves. It seriously believes that enforcing a regressive practice on schoolgirls is the best way to protect them from harassment or abuse.
But then, what is the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government if not a bag of surprise? A day after the mandatory order, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan did what the Imran Khan government does best: take a U-turn. And why not – after all, Imran Khan is “glad” that he is called “a prime minister of U-turns”. “Only an idiot doesn’t do any U-turns; only a moron… when he comes across a wall… only that stupid idiot keeps banging his head against the brick wall,” he proudly declares.
Govt of idiots and morons?
So, should we consider PM Imran Khan’s colleagues in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stupid for possibly seeing the wall (the protests and criticisms that the decision was sure to invite) and still choosing to bang their heads and issue the circular on what schoolgirls should wear?
Barely hours before CM Mahmood Khan ordered to withdraw the government notification following severe backlash from child rights activists and others on social and mainstream media, education adviser Ziaullah Bangash was defending the orders.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government had to clarify that the order was “neither necessary nor was there logic behind it”.
Citizens should be free to decide what they want to wear and young girls should not be shamed into taking responsibility for what perverted men do. Pakistani schoolgirls all across the country have a dress code in place already, a uniform that covers every part of the body. Whether or not they wear an abaya or a hijab is not a decision for the government to make – let alone its excuse of taking the decision to prevent “unethical incidents”.
If the government thought it was addressing the issue of harassment or abuse by asking young girls to cover their bodies “properly”, then what does it suggest the young boys do because they are even more vulnerable? In 2018, Pakistan had a total of 3,832 cases of child abuse – an increase of 11 per cent from the previous year – reported in the country, according to a report by child rights advocacy group, Sahil. Of the total children abused, 2,094 were boys and 1,738 were girls, the report added.
Address the real problem
Pakistani society has to first accept and then speak up what many inadvertently end up denying: child abuse is a real problem and it will not go away by making children wear a certain piece of clothing. Instead of taking concrete steps that deal with the larger issue of male perversion, the government turns to measures that only give fodder to the religious Right, which then brushes the uncomfortable truth about child abuse under the carpet.
Take for instance cleric Mufti Taqi Usmani. He first criticised the government’s recall of the abaya order, which he said was “in accordance with the teachings of Holy Quran and worthy of praise”. And then, he asked Imran Khan to intervene since the First Lady wears a ‘naqab’ and the PM himself advocates for the ‘State of Medina’.
It should be clear to anyone that dress is irrelevant. There are women wearing burqa getting harassed, those covering their head with dupattas catcalled, hijab-wearing girls being offered lifts by strangers, or those in chadars being molested in public places. The blame doesn’t rest on women, and until policymakers realise this, there won’t be much progress.
Moreover, by putting the blame on the victims, society stops the child – boy or girl – from coming forward and reporting the incident of sexual abuse. Children need to be given the confidence to talk to a trusted adult, who should be bound to report any sign of actual or potential abuse.
Laws alone not the solution
Pakistan is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, having signed and ratified it in 1990. So, Pakistan is bound to have tough legislation on these issues. But having laws alone won’t help. They need to be implemented as well. Along with strengthening the implementation of existing laws in the country, the government must also focus on how to prevent these incidents of crime. At the same time, it should ensure child rights activists and experts educate parents, school teachers and members of local communities on how best to address such issues.
When six-year-old Zainab Ansari was raped and killed in Punjab’s Kasur district, it had shaken Pakistani society’s conscience. Or at least that’s what it felt like when the case became a watershed moment in Pakistan’s civilian activism, finding global support, and resulting in the rapist-killer getting hanged. But what did the outrage and justice do for the safety of other children?
Since then, thousands of such cases have been reported, with and without media or civil society registering their outrage. On Wednesday, police in Kasur confirmed that the three boys – aged eight and nine – who were missing for nearly three months were found to have been raped and killed. Their bodies were found Tuesday. The aggrieved families protest, people demand punishment for the culprits – and the cycle continues. Nothing actually gets done that would ensure the safety of children in Pakistan.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
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