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Archive for category WOMEN OF PAKISTAN

Dharna Visit – A Lesson in Discipline & Organization under Two Great Leaders

 Islamabad  Dharna-  6 Sept 2014


 My wife and I teach in Rainbow Foundation School. Fired by the appeal of Dr Qadri, we decided to do our bit. We talked to the students for donations – whatever they could for those men, women, children who are braving the weather and time for our future. The children responded far better than one expects from children. Next morning we had a pile of a variety of gifts – even personal toys, which was very touching indeed.

 On Saturday, 06 September 2014, with our car loaded with the neat packages clearly marked with contents, reaching up to the roof of the back seat, we left our house in Chaklala – 1,Rawalpindi at about 0645 in the morning. Not knowing the route,( poor Pindiites!), we took a few wrong turnings, and ultimately reached right into the Dharna camp from the Margalla Road side at about 0800 hours. This ia what we saw.

 All along the route, the police were very helpful. Seeing the load in our car, they would happily wave us on towards the correct direction without check or hinderance. The camp started from about three hundred metres from the Margalla road. There were numerous men about,with name tags indicating their party and assignment, wanting to enquire and direct. The camp showed activity, but surprisingly, no noise.  Considering that there were thousands and thousands of men, women and children about, this was the first pleasant surprise. We asked one of the persons where could we hand over the packages to some authorised to collect them. He walked in front of our car towards the nearest Control container.

 Driving through the camp we noticed various sights and stages of activities of early morning routines.People were shaking out their mattresses, spreading clothes out in the sun, which had happily come out after three days of continuous rain . There was a clear water mountain stream flowing through the camp, where people were washing up. Beyond, we could see a long row of toilets in containers. Nearer, we found lines of almost military discipline leading to a langar. Every one had his or her utensil and were being served breakfast by the caterer quite efficiently. On my asking whose party line was this one, the guide told me proudly “Sir, for eating time we are all together”! And I could scarves of both PTI as well as PAT in the same line. Very gratifying.

The nearest command container we came to, was the one we keep seeing on TV with Dr Qadri’s arms spread out and upwards. On asking to see someone in charge, some one came up introduced himself as Mr Ayub or Yaqub, who later on I was informed was, I think, an advocate! I said these parcels are from Rainbow Foundation School children, an Amanat, and therefore I need some photos so that I can put them up on the notice board for them to see. Within minutes he had organised 4-5 men with name tags who unloaded all the packages, lined them up, took out the toys , displayed them on top of the cartons, gor a press photographer . My wife acting as the press photographer, kept taking photos with my cheap camera. Seeing the pile of goodies, some women and men came up asking for an umbrella or warm Chador, but the PAT man in charge said no one would get anything here. “we have no authority do give out any thing. Dr Sahib will come at one o clock and personally distribute them. He will announce on the speaker who these are from”. And he didn’t. After the photo session, he asked my name and address, and the cartons were lifted up onto the container and stacked according to category. Very organised, very efficient. Being ex Army, I noticed, and was very pleased.

 Thereafter we went around and drove through. What we saw was a real eye opener, and, I would say, a confidence builder.

 In spite of all those thousands and thousands of Pakistanis of all casts and creeds and languages, having been in those unsettling conditions for over three weeks of sun and rains, there was no sign of fatigue, frustration or anxiety. People were calm and peaceful.

 Inspite of such close proximity for so long in trying circumstances ther was no sign of frayed nerves, of quarrels, disputes or even heated arguments. Every one had a peaceful and content expression. Pakistanis are great cribbers. There was no such sign anywhere. Which was great.

 The crowds had a high percentage of well to do, educated people amongst men as well as women. One group of young women that went past us were definitely teachers. We were told that the books, copies and pencils etc we had brought would be used in the schools for small children! So they already have schools going!

 There were tents, shaamianas, tables and chairs in small groups, some occupied some vacant. Men were seated on some quietly, discussing whatever. Women and children were moving freely. Their body language clearly depicted a sense of total security, which was pleasant as well as amazing, considering our normal culture elsewhere.

 Some entrepreneurs ahd set up shops and ‘khokhas’ doing roaring business, serving all sorts of wares from eatables to utility items, specially umbrellas!

 Considering the multicultural conglomeration of teeming mankind there, the calm and homogeneity was remarkeble, almost unbelievable. The whole area gave the impression of a hastily built mini city, well organised and self contained.

 The general impression exuded was “we have come to stay”. More importantly, I was impressed by the discipline, organisation, the calm determination, the sense of ‘doing the right thing’and self control of all the Pakistanis gathered there in such a small confinement.

 All because of just two good leaders who have given this cross section of so called unruly Pakistanis, a sense of direction and conviction and hope:  Hope of a new and better Pakistan.

 We came back full of confidence in these two leaders and confidence in the Pakistani nation. They have raised our hopes of a better future and dared us to take charge of our own destiny.

 We are both old people, well beyond seventy. We came back very happy. We hope to go again next weekend. Inshallah.

 May Allah bless these two leaders of ours with success. Aameen. 

If only the other so called ‘leaders’ could take lesson from them instead of piling ignorant ridicule on them


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9-year-old Pakistani girl kidnapped and gang-raped  



An archive photo of  a Pakistani girl. (Reuters / Fayaz Aziz)

An archive photo of a Pakistani girl. (Reuters / Fayaz Aziz)






Shakira Parveen was prostituted by her husband.






Meerwala, Pakistan




Mr.Kristof is a New York Jew and writes particularly vicious articles for the Jewish Newspapers like  The New York Times and Washington Post about Muslim societies like Pakistan, ignoring the 1 million cases of unreported rapes in

his home country.Pakistan allows these Jewish reporters, who cleverly hide their identity to roam around in Pakistan, and even to spy for Israel and India. Pakistan’s security agencies can only keep an eye on them, our executive and Judiciary protects them.

Our an enemy can only point out our flaws. It is for us to fix them

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Nicholas D. Kristof

Shakira Parveen, far right.

If the thought has ever flitted through your mind that your spouse isn’t 100 percent perfect, then just contemplate what Shakira Parveen is going through. And give your own husband or wife a hug.

When Ghulam Fareed proposed marriage to Ms. Parveen, he fingered prayer beads and seemed gentle and pious. Ms. Parveen didn’t know him well, but she and her family were impressed.

“The first month of marriage was O.K.,” Ms. Parveen recalled. “And then he said, you have to do whatever I tell you. If I tell you to sleep with other men, you have to do that.”

It turned out that Mr. Fareed was running a brothel and selling drugs, and he intended Ms. Parveen to be his newest prostitute. “I said, ‘No, I don’t want to sleep with other men,’ ” she said, but he beat her unconscious with sticks, broke her bones and at one point set fire to her clothes. Finally, she broke and assented.

Her “husband” locked her up in one room, she said, and the only people she saw were customers. “For two years, I never left the house,” she said.

This kind of neo-slavery is the plight of millions of girls and young women (and smaller numbers of boys) around the world, particularly in Asia. A major difference from 19th-century slavery is that these victims are dead of AIDS by their 20s.

Finally, Ms. Parveen was able to escape and return to her family, but Mr. Fareed was furious and began to torment her family, saying he would let up only if she returned to the brothel as his prostitute. Then Mr. Fareed’s gang pressured Ms. Parveen by kidnapping her younger brother, Uzman, who was in the fifth grade. Uzman says that his hands and feet were shackled, and he was raped daily by many different men, apparently pimped to paying customers.

The gang members explained that they would release the boy if Ms. Parveen returned to the brothel, and she contemplated suicide.

After six weeks, Uzman escaped while his captors became drunk and left him unshackled. But when Ms. Parveen and her parents went to the police, the officers just laughed at them. Mr. Fareed and other gang members worked hand in glove with the police, the family says.

Indeed, the police even arrested Ms. Parveen’s father, who is one-legged because of a train accident (that is one reason for the family’s poverty). Apparently on the gang’s orders, the police held him for two weeks, in which time he says he was beaten mercilessly. The police are also searching for Ms. Parveen’s brothers, who have gone into hiding.

Mr. Fareed also threatened to kidnap and prostitute Ms. Parveen’s younger sister, Naima, a 10th-grader who was ranked first in her class of 40 girls. Panic-stricken, the parents pulled Naima out of school and sent her to relatives far away. So her dreams of becoming a doctor have been dashed. (For readers who want to help, I’ve posted some suggestions on my blog:www.nytimes.com/ontheground.)

This nexus of sex trafficking and police corruption is common in developing countries. The problem is typically not so much that laws are inadequate; it is that brothel owners buy the police and the courts.

But Ms. Parveen’s tale arises not only from corruption, but also from poverty.

“If I had money, this wouldn’t be happening,” said Ms. Parveen’s mother, Akbari Begum. “It’s all about money. In the police station, nobody listens to me. The police listen to those who sell narcotics.”

“God should never grant daughters to poor people,” she added. “God should not give sisters to poor brothers. Because we’re poor, we can’t fight for them. It’s very hard for poor people, because they take our daughters and dishonor them. There’s nothing we can do.”

Yet in a land where poor women and girls are victimized equally by pimps and by the police, they do have one savior — Mukhtar Mai. She is the woman I’ve visited and written about often (she also uses the name Mukhtaran Bibi).

After being sentenced to be gang-raped by a tribal council for a supposed offense of her brother, Mukhtar refused to commit suicide and instead prosecuted her attackers. And then she used compensation money (and donations from Times readers) to run schools and an aid organization for Pakistani women.






It was in Mukhtar’s extraordinary sanctuary that I met Ms. Parveen. In my Sunday column, I’ll tell more about Mukhtar today.






A nine-year-old Pakistani girl has been taken to the hospital in critical condition after being kidnapped and brutally gang-raped. The girl’s mother has named the abusers, but no arrests were made.

The girl was admitted to a hospital in Bahawalpur after being raped on Wednesday. She remains in critical condition due to loss of blood and internal injuries, the Express Tribune reported, quoting the hospital’s doctors. 

Local police have launched a criminal case against seven men for the kidnap and rape; no arrests have been made yet. 

The girl’s mother named five of the seven suspects. She reportedly told police that she hesitated to inform law enforcers because the kidnappers threatened to kill her and the girl if the woman spoke to authorities.

Station House Officer Irshad Joyia said they were ordered to arrest the suspects, but later were informed that the men had fled to Alipur village, the Express Tribune said. 

According to a First Information Report (FIR) prepared by police, the girl was beaten and then kidnapped by three women and a man in front of her house in Manzoorabad in Rahim Yar Khanby. The kidnappers reportedly took her to another location where she was gang-raped by three men, one of whom was named in the FIR. 

The girl was then allegedly taken back to the place from which she was kidnapped. The girl’s mother told police she found her bloodied daughter near their house. She then took the child to Sheikh Zayed Hospital for examination and treatment.

The rape came weeks after a similar shocking case when a six-year-old Hindu girl was allegedly raped in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province at the beginning of December. The child was also reportedly kidnapped and gang-raped. Residents of the province staged several protests in response to the incident. 

These two recent cases in Pakistan coincide with a horrifying gang-rape in India that claimed the life of a 23-year-old student raped on a bus by six men, the youngest of whom reportedly was a minor. The six men have all been charged with murder, gang-rape, attempted murder, kidnapping and other felonies. They are expected to appear in court on Monday. 

The case sparked mass protests in New Delhi. Demonstrators, particularly women, demanded the rapists be punished and called for the creation of new laws to protect Indian women.

The incident has drawn international attention to the high rates of violence against women in India, where rape victims often do not report to the police for fear of shaming their families or being ignored by law enforcement.

Read more: http://reviewpakistan.com/showthread.php?783131-Takrar-(-16th-June-2013-)-Full-ExpressNews-Young-girls-kidnapped-and-being-sold-all-o&s=f20d5cf6de42075517b4adb321f91edb#ixzz2WPbXEf00


$1,190,655 raised for women

The American government has just gone into the anti-honor-killing “business.” Given my extensive academic and legal work documenting and opposing honor killing, I support this venture. I do find it a bit odd that the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem has just launched such a campaign–but for Palestinian women only.

I have written about honor killing among Palestinians and among Israeli Arabs; I also interviewed Palestinian feminist Asma Al-Ghoul about how she was fired and then arrested for her anti-honor-killing advocacy both in Gaza and on the West Bank. Thus, I favor some U.S. intervention in the matter.

However, I wonder: Why not branch out to Pakistan or Afghanistan where honor killing and honor-based violence is, possibly, even more epidemic?

Last night, I watched an excellent and heartbreaking Frontline documentary by Habiba Nosheen about honor-based violence in Pakistan: “Outlawed in Pakistan.” Thirteen-year-old Kainat Soomro was chloroformed, drugged, kidnapped, and then gang-raped for three or four days by four men who threatened to kill or sell her.

Amazingly Kainat escaped, in her bare feet and without her headscarf.

I am very partial to a story about a girl or woman who escapes a life-threatening captivity in the “Wild East,” as I once did, in Kabul, long ago. I write about this in my forthcoming book, An American Bride in Kabul.

But, I was a foreigner, an American, and once I got out I had a second chance. Kainat is now and forevermore a ruined child, an “outlaw,” whose family was meant to kill her for having “dishonored” them.

Amazingly, her loving family refused to do so. Unlike so many honor-killing families in which parents and siblings are either hands-on perpetrators or collaborators in the murder of their daughters and sisters, Kainat’s mother weeps and kisses her. Her father and older brother proudly supported Kainat’s search for justice.

This family deserves a major prize for having the courage and the sanity to stand up to tribal misogyny.

The Soomros turned to the police who refused to act. Instead, they said to kill her according to tribal custom. “She has shamed you.” The police do no sperm or DNA testing, and do not secure the crime scene. They ensure that charges of rape are almost impossible to prove.

Perhaps the U.S. Consulates in Peshawar and Karachi can donate rape kits to the Pakistani police.

Instead of becoming a bandit queen, as the gang-raped Phoolan Devi did in Uttar Pradesh, India; instead of killing herself — Kainat wanted justice. She wanted these men “sentenced to death” because they ruined her life. And they have. Probably, no one will marry her, and Kainat’s plans to become a physician may be permanently on hold. The death threats against this honorable family became so serious, that Kainat’s 18-person family was forced to flee their home for two rooms in Karachi.

Men who rape girls in tribal areas feel no guilt. Kainat’s accused rapists were enraged when their victim dared speak out. They hotly denied Kainat’s charges.

In Karachi, Sarah Zaman, of War Against Rape, a grassroots feminist group, decided to help Kainat and found her a dedicated pro bono lawyer. Zaman knew that powerful village men routinely rape girls and then have them killed for having shamed their families. In Afghanistan, raped women are either honor-killed or jailed as criminals. Kainat bravely agreed to endure a 5- to 10-year legal process, one in which she will be grilled in humiliating ways. The pro bono lawyer who represented the accused men, is also representing the President of Pakistan.

Nevertheless, Kainat’s lawyer managed to have the four men jailed and held in jail without bail for three years. This, too, is amazing.

Nevertheless, the accused rapists prevail. We see dozens of their village supporters descend on the courthouse yelling that “Kainat is a whore.” Their winning defense is ingenious: They claim that Kainat married one of them and he produces her thumbprint on a marriage document and a photo of the two of them, smiling. Kainat repeats that she was drugged and does not remember this. Her presumed bridegroom demands that she return to him.

Kainat was only 13 and did not have the right to consent to a marriage under secular law. However, under Sharia law, if she has reached puberty, she can do so. Sharia law prevails in the matter and the accused are all freed.

Despite claims to the contrary, Sharia law and Sharia courts are dangerous for women.

Kainat’s story is a victory and like all such victories, the price is high and the risk is even higher.

For a poor girl and her family to have four powerful men jailed for three years is extraordinary. The price: They allegedly killed her supportive brother, Sabir. And despite national headlines, the police closed the murder investigation. Kainat quietly says that her “life is a living hell.”

Kainat and her family live under police protection. Again, this is extraordinary.

I suggest that the U.S. Consulates also consider funding Kainat’s education as a physician. Perhaps the entire family should be air-lifted out of the Pakistani Badlands and into America for their safety.

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Courageous Daughter of Pakistan: ‘Malala deserves Nobel Peace Prize:’ Angelina Jolie

Malala deserves Nobel Peace Prize: Angelina Jolie

A woman holds a picture of Malala Yousufzai with a candle as she participates in a rally to condemn the attack on Yousufzai, in Karachi October 11, 2012. REUTERS/Athar Hussain

Nobel Committee is heavily skewed and prejudiced against Muslims and Islam. Therefore, it stands to reason that they bypassed in 2012, Pakistan’s heroic daughter Malala Yousafzai. But, you never know that their conscience may be awakened, and Malala is recognized by them in 2013. She went against her tribal culture and spoke as a brave Muslim woman for the education of women in Pakistan’s tribal areas of FATA. For her vision and bravery, she received bullets in the head in return. The West did a lot of song and dance and lionized her or rather used her for their propaganda, mainly Zionist driven,against Pakistan and Muslim  societies at large. They made 180 million Pakistanis and 1.2 billion Muslims appear like Neanderthals or living in dark ages. Little realizing that Islamic societies have produced more women political leaders, Prime Ministers, Chief Executives, Managers, Business leaders, Doctors, Engineers, Soldiers, Journalists, and many professions, where women still face prejudice in Western societies. The West is still trying to play catch-up.


Status of Women in Islam:

The First Lady of Islam, Hazrat Khadija (RA) was literate business woman. She was also the Boss (in modern terminology) of our Holy Prophet (PBUH). She exported and imported goods from as far away places as Syria. Our Prophet(PBUH) handled her Import-Export business or cross national Trade!

Hazrat Khadijah R.A was the first wife of Prophet Muhammad P.B.you.H. She was the daughter of Khuwaylid ibn Asad and belonged to Banu Hashim Clan. 

Her contributions to Islam are numerous. She was the first person to convert to Islam. She trusted her husband and she consoled him whenever he was distressed about the reactions of the non-Muslims. She sacrificed her wealth to promote Islam. She also patiently bore the persecutions of the non-Muslims and aristocrats of Quraish.

She remain at the side of the Propher Muhammad P.B.U.H all her life and supported him in his mission. She died in the year 619. This year is known as the year of sorrow. This is because Prophet Muhammad P.B.you.H was deeply moved on her death. She was the favorite wife of the Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H and he did not remarry until her death.


The Hollywood celebrity has joined the growing number of voices speaking in support of Malala. PHOTO: AFP

American actor and former UN goodwill ambassador for refugees Angelina Jolie has urged the Nobel Peace Prize awarding committee to give “serious consideration” to “brave” Malala Yousafzai.

The Hollywood celebrity has joined the growing number of voices speaking in support of Malala, the 14-year-old girl who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls education in Swat.

In an article published by the Daily Beast, Jolie wrote: “I felt compelled to share Malala’s story with my children. It was difficult for them to comprehend a world where men would try to kill a child whose only “crime” was the desire that she and others like her be allowed to go to school.”

Jolie wrote: “Still trying to understand, my children asked, “Why did those men think they needed to kill Malala?” I answered, “because an education is a powerful thing.

“The shots fired on Malala struck the heart of the nation, and as the Taliban refuse to back down, so too do the people of Pakistan.”

She was of the view that Malala was proof that it takes only the voice of one brave person to inspire numerous men, women and children.

“As girls across Pakistan stand up to say “I am Malala,” they do not stand alone,” Jolie asserted in her article.

Lauding Malala for her feats achieved at such a small age, Jolie said: “As the Nobel Committee meets to determine the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, I imagine brave Malala will be given serious consideration.”


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The Express Tribune: PAF flurries: Iron butterflies: The Women Fighter Pilots of Pakistan Air Force: Bahadur Watan Key Beteyaan

PAF flurries: Iron butterflies

Published: March 24, 2013

Meet the flying furies of the Pakistan Air Force . PHOTO COURTESY : MYRA IQBAL AND PAF

Meet the flying furies of the Pakistan Air Force . PHOTO COURTESY : MYRA IQBAL AND PAFMeet the flying furies of the Pakistan Air Force . PHOTO COURTESY : MYRA IQBAL AND PAF

“We lock onto each other’s planes in the air and fake a battle, until one of us proclaims ‘I’m dead,’” says the 24-year-old Flying Officer, Ayesha Omar Farooq. 

She is one of the many female pilots who now bolster the ranks of the Pakistan Air Force. When she takes off from the tarmac, the responsibility of flying a multi-million dollar fighter is hers and hers alone. Gone are the days when women in the military were only restricted to the fields of medicine and engineering. With the passage of time, women in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) have branched into different units and today, they are even inducted as frontline Fighter Pilots. Dressed in crisp uniforms with embellished stars on their shoulders and smiles on their faces, a group of female officers gather at the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to talk about their experiences. They are the conquerors of the skies, and the pride they take in their positions and achievements is visible in their demeanour. Their faces, radiant with courage and confidence break into smiles and laughter effortlessly. It is easy to forget that, in order to get to this much sought-after position, each and every one of them has had to put in countless hours of hard work and have had to make many sacrifices.


For these pilots, the sky is not the limit. When it comes to flying fighter jets, the higher you soar, the greater are the heights that you discover. It is only when you push both yourself and your aircraft to its limits that you discover what you are capable of. 23-year-old Flying Officer Anam Faiq, was the first in her family to join the military. As a little girl, she would attend the annual parades with her father on the 23rd of March in Islamabad. “I was so fascinated to see those planes soaring high. I always thought to myself that one day I will also fly a plane.” Back then, her image of pilots was that of tall, dashing and muscular men. “But of course that’s not the case anymore,” she says with a laugh. Anam has now spent six years in the air force and is now in charge of her own F-7 fighter plane.

Even after years of being a pilot, she says that there are times when her parents cannot believe that she actually flies a fighter jet. “Every time I am about to take off, I speak to my mother. She says whenever I’m up in the air, her heart sinks. But I do see the pride in her eyes,” she says. Her training has been demanding, but Anam is proud to have made it this far at a young age. “I am proud to say that I am a fighter pilot today. I feel amazing when I am in the air, at the top of the world. There is no feeling that matches the adrenaline rush of when we take off. Hearing my heart beat in my head, the excitement is unmatchable,” she says.


But it is still a fact that, all over the world, the armed forces are largely a boy’s club. So how do these young girls blend in this macho environment? Anam says that they have never felt discriminated against or threatened by their male counterparts. “If anything, they have been extremely supportive” she says. Missions in the Air Force are not allocated on gender basis and everyone gets an equally tough assignment. The simulated war patterns in the basic fighter maneuvers are what excite her the most. “We risk our lives, early mornings or late at night, but it is all worth it!” she says. Adding to that, Ayesha Omar Farooq says that she enjoys her training in bombing the most. “The jolt felt in the aircraft once the bomb lands on the ground is just exciting. My mother is a really strong woman and I look up to her. After losing my father at an early age, I now feel like I am the man of my family and I feel that the Air Force has made me stronger than ever,” she says. Both Anam and Ayesha fly their own fighter planes today and are amongst the few handpicked fighter pilots in the PAF. “The scope for women to enter this profession is high; it is demanding but rewarding” says Ayesha.

Squadron leader Sania Iqbal, a member of the Administration Branch, says that women are now present in almost every unit of the PAF. A Masters graduate in English literature, Sania never wanted to be a typical housewife. Owing to her family background in the military service, she always aspired to be a part of the PAF and jumped at the opportunity as soon as she heard of it. “There was no turning back after that point” she says. With eleven years of experience in the administration of different units at the PAF, she believes that women are the best managers, and she’s certainly glad for the support that having other women around gives her: “We have seen tough times together and we support each other. You don’t feel alone, and you know someone will stand up for you in difficult times. The pride, the comfort, the perks aside, serving in the Pakistan Air force is a serious challenge that we battle everyday”, she says.


While these women endure strenuous work hours and tough training regimes in the air, those on ground-duty don’t have it easy either. Many of these women are also mothers and wives on double duty.  Standing tall and confident among the officers is Flight Lieutenant Munazzah Akbar Khan, who works at the Air Headquarters in Islamabad at the Directorate of Safety. As a mother of two, she has more than one responsibility on her shoulders. With eleven years of work experience, she calls her present posting “the most stressful job in the world.” “We have to leave our worries and personal matters outside the tower. I am a mother but at the same time I am an officer, so once I enter the tower I cannot think about anything else. I feel like a super woman at times,” she adds. Along with the Air Force, she is also in-charge of military and civil traffic. “But that’s not all,” she says, “one must also take care of flight safety, in air and on-ground emergencies, and rescue and fire services. We cannot afford a single flaw. Lives are at stake and it is a huge responsibility especially when we deal with VIP and VVIP movements.” Like her colleagues, Munazzah says there is no discrimination when it comes to work and women have to work just as hard as the men. “Quick decisions, high attention level, stressful night duties are all very challenging but a great learning experience,” she says.

Though it may be a struggle to remain at par with the men, it is just as challenging, and sometimes amusing, to keep up with the women outside the Air Base. Squadron leader Shakeela Naaz, a training officer at the Faisal Base Engineering Wing, comments on the difference between themselves and the women of other professions. “We are dressed in uniform the whole day and don’t even know how it feels to wear heels anymore” she laughs. “We have to pick up magazines to learn the latest trends.”

But if training in the Air Force keeps them away from the changing fashion vistas of Pakistan, it certainly inculcates in them iron-clad confidence. Shakeela, who has been working in the Air Force for the last 12 years, says that her job, taxing as it may be, has given her the confidence to embrace any challenge that comes her way. “Everyone is always on rotation,” she says, “from learning to manage the electronics of aircrafts to manning the Air Defence setup. Everything needs to be maintained without any error, and quality checks are very important.” Sharing similar views, Squadron Leader at the AHQ Islamabad, Ayesha Waheed says that the Air Force experience has transformed her as a person. After eleven years of experience in the training of teachers and the staff, she is now working with the Air Force’s Flight Safety Magazine. “If I had lived the normal life of a housewife, my life would feel empty,” she says. She recalls being a shy girl who had no confidence to speak to anyone. “I think my experience has added so much to my knowledge that today I work on various issues for the Magazine. It helps me grow as a person each day. I talk to people with confidence now and confront them whenever I feel the need to,” she says, and adds with a smile: “It is good being in uniform.”

As years go by, more and more women are entering the PAF in front-line positions. Squadron Leader Amber Raza, who is currently working as an Assistant Director of Civil Contract Management, says that all assignments given to her as a lady officer were challenging at first. But in the past few years there has been a sudden boost in the number of women entering the profession. “Twelve years ago there were 46 Lady Officers in our course and they have now crossed over 200 officers working in different units. There is not a single unit that does not have a lady officer,” says Amber.

These frontline female fighter pilots may be in an unconventional profession in Pakistan, but they believe that the social taboos they encounter as women are no different from those in other professional fields. Opting for a profession in the PAF may take a lot of their time and energy, perhaps even at the expense of their families, but it rewards them with pride and honour. There is a lot that goes behind their smiles and their calm exterior. Salute to these brave women who are serving the country so dedicatedly, those who tell us confidently as we doze off: “Sleep tight! The Pakistan Air Force is awake!”

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 24th, 2013.

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Shaheed Parveen Rehman: A Modern Muslim Saint Falls Victim to Karachi Terrorists & Land Mafia

Parveen Rehman, a leading social worker in Pakistan was shot dead by unidentified gunmen amid rising ethnic, sectarian and criminal violence in Karachi city. 56-year-old Parveen was killed right outside Orangi, on March 13, 2013, where she headed the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), one of Pakistan’s most successful non-profit organisations, which helps poor communities.

Orangi is considered Asia’s largest slum and houses close to a million people in Karachi. A trained architect, Parveen also worked tirelessly to document land in the ever growing slum and in Karachi, to protect it from the city’s notorious land mafia, who she had been receiving death threats from for years.







Parveen Rahman. Image from Twitter courtesy Alexpressed

On his blog Alexressed Diary of a concerned Pakistani, Ale Natiq writes:

Most people know her as the Director of the Orangi Pilot Project but she was more than a mere NGO Director. She and her organisation have left footprints across a wide area of Karachi and have influenced several thousand lives. It will not be unfair to say that she influenced the lives of half a million people or half the population of Orangi in one way or the other. Karachi’s slums and katchi abadis have lost a mother figure.

Among other milestones, the OPP is known for initiating one of the most successful community-driven sanitation programs in the world. Since its inception in 1980, it has helped 2 million people improve their sanitation by installing underground sewer pipes and indoor toilets across Pakistan.

Steve Inskeep, host of NPR’s Morning Edition and Author of Instant City Life and Death in Karachi, which features an interview with Parveen, remembers on Twitter:

 @NPRInskeep: Outsiders would get a little tense just visiting Orangi, the vast gang-infested zone of Karachi where Rahman cheerfully worked each day.

Karachi Violence

The day Parveen was murdered, seven other people were killed in various incidents of violence in the city. There was a feeling of extreme loss and grief among Pakistan’s Twitterati. Pakistan Director at Human Rights Watch Ali Dayan Hasan tweeted on March 14, 2013:

@AliDayan (Ali Dayan Hasan): Slowly but surely, everyone and everything good in our country is being targeted and killed.#ParveenRehman #Pakistan

Others including journalists Beena Sarwar, Mohammad Hanif and columnist Cyril Almeida echoed his sentiments:

@beenasarwar (beena sarwar)#ParveenRehman RT @mohammedhanif: this is the saddest thing. And we thought we have seen too much sadness. Can’t even muster up anger

@cyalm (cyril almeida): A selfish thought tonight: am sick at the thought of the growing number of ppl in my phone book who have been cut down. Too much death.

@BhopalHouse (Faiza S Khan): I realise, I’ve known for some time, that no depths to which Pak won’t sink. Grateful that I still feel heartbroken. Soon that too will end.

@AmSayeed (Amima Sayeed): the negative propaganda against NGOs has led to this:#ParveenRehman shot dead. It is the blind hatred that doesnt see contributions!!

Tribute to social worker Parveen Rehman killed by terrorist in Karachi, Image by Ayuib. Copyright Demoyix (14/3/2013)

Parveen’s Fight against Karachi’s Land Mafia

Before joining the OPP in 1982, Parveen worked as a architect. She continued to teach at various architecture schools over the years to create socially-responsible architects in the country. Parveen, had spent years documenting land in the fringes of the ever-expanding metropolis Karachi. According to her students and colleagues she had been receiving death threats from the mafia involved in grabbing precious land in the city:

Ms Rehman was an ardent compiler of the record of precious lands, which were on the fringes of the city in shape of villages but were speedily vanishing into its vastness because of ever-increasing demand by thousands of families who were shifting to Karachi every year from across the country. She said on record that around 1,500 goths (villages) had been merged into the city since 15 years. Land-grabbers subdivided them into plots and earned billions by their sale.

Journalist Fahad Desmukh tweeted his audio interview with Parveen Rehman in which she talks about threats from the land mafia in Karachi: 

@desmukh (Fahad Desmukh): Parveen Rehman: “We said all that you can do is kill us. What else can you do? We’re not afraid of you” #LandMafia

SesapZai an artist from Pakistan writes in her blog:

It almost seems to me that people in Pakistan do not want to develop; development is a looming monster that becomes a huge threat as soon as someone tries to push it forward. And rather than supporting and encouraging such brave humanitarians — like Parveen Rehman — who’d dedicated as well as put their lives on the line, to help the poorest in the region live better lives, they are instead murdered. And with them, all hopes and dreams for a better, more economically sufficient future, wither away too.

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Written by Qurratulain Zaman 
Posted 16 March 2013 7:28 GMT · Print version Print version


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