Two stories have been making headlines in Pakistan over the past several years. One relates to a completely illiterate lady from a remote rural village of South Punjab, the other a PhD from a highly cultured background of urban Sindh with an American passport: Mukhtar Bibi and Aafia Siddiqui
Societies and cultures where people have separated matters of faith from matters of fact, personal beliefs from scientific reasoning, the predicaments of heart from that of the head, and have learned to look at things in a logical and scientific way, are mostly not swayed away by emotions. On the other hand there are societies like ours where we generally do not learn critical scientific thinking; rather our formal and informal systems of education are deeply rooted in emotionality .Look at the jargon of our text books and popular clichés. Angraiz ki ayyarian.Hindu ki makkarian,yahudi ki tayyarian,deen kay dushman, kuffar ki sazishian, so on and so forth. The lesser the scientific thought the higher the level of emotions in the perception of an event. Hence we develop a predisposition to look at things in an emotional context. This inherent emotionality is then fully exploited by the powers that be, to achieve certain ends. The security establishment, political parties, religious outfits, media, NGO’s and other stakeholders fully capitalize upon this tendency where emotionally charged rhetoric, clichés, slogans, replace critical thinking and so much overwhelm one’s perceptions that a person not even bothers to verify the facts on record and forms strong attitudes towards an object or event. Anything contrary to that perception is summarily rejected or reconciled within the preconceived perceptual framework.
Two stories have been making headlines in Pakistan over the past several years. One relates to a completely illiterate lady from a remote rural village of South Punjab, the other a PhD from a highly cultured background of urban Sindh with an American passport:Mukhtar Bibi and Aafia Siddiqui.
Almost everybody in this country has strong perceptions about these two women and what happened to them. These perceptions are so deeply ingrained and so much emotionality is attached to these two cases that even knowing the facts available on record is considered irrelevant. The fact remains that majority of the people did not even bother to learn the basic facts of the case, yet show strong emotional reactions when encountered with a counterargument. The writer of this article himself heard a prominent women rights activist declaring on Geo channel that she and Mukhtaran would be filing a rupee 10 crore suit each, against Duniya channel for airing a counter narrative. That is the level of tolerance of our liberal class which never misses an opportunity of criticizing religious intolerance.
Although Mukhtaran was also invited to that program anchored by Mubasshar Luqman but she soon quit, as she heard a view which was different from her’s. Let us have a bird’s eye view of the two cases and see what information we are getting for the first time:
First the Mukhtaran case:
a) On 22nd June 2002 Abdul Shakoor, then 17, brother of Mukhtaran is caught with Salma, sister of Manzoor. Shakoor is then handed over to police station Jatoi. Mukhtar’s father Ghulam Farid Qatla then goes to the police station and after paying Rs. 10,000 to the police brings his son back.
b)To sort out the issue, as per tradition, a panchayat is held at night on the same date i.e. 22nd June, where it is decided that Salma, the sister of the main accused Manzoor would get married to Shakoor, the brother of Mukhtaran, whereas Mukhtaran would be married to Manzoor in exchange. However a fight breaks out between Molvi Abdur Razzaq, half brother of Mukhtar’s father, and the other party.
c) Nothing happens in between 22nd and 28th of June 2002, and nobody in the village knows anything about the incident, not even Mukhtaran’s family.
d) Salma is married to Khalil on 26.6.2002, instead of Shakoor, which ignites the whole incident. It is interesting to note that Mukhtaran, later implicates Khalil, and his real paternal uncles, Qasim, Rasool, Hazoor, and Nazar, his maternal uncle, who all remain imprisoned for 9 years. It is also important to note, and even the supporters of Mukhtaran admit that the accused are even poorer and underprivileged vis-a-vis the aggrieved. There is no record of any threats to Mukhtar and her family.
e) During the Juma prayers, in his khutba, Molvi Abdur Razzaq narrates the incident, without consulting Mukhtaran and her family. Molvi Abdur Razzaq, quite intriguingly does not even divulge this incident to his brother Altaf Hussain with whom he lives in the same house. He later informs the court that the incident was told to him by somebody whom he did not remember and the incident was told to that person whom that person did not remember. The only prosecutrix in the case is Mukhtaran alone. It is also to be noted that Molvi Abdur Razzaq, who failed to broker an agreement on exchange marriages had a property dispute with the family of the accused.
f) The incident is then carried by a local Multan newspaper, an eveninger namely ”naya akhbar” and the following day a national daily namely “khabrain” flashes it as a super lead. Soon the international press and media along with an Islamabad based NGO by the name of PATAN, get into the business and the Federal and Provincial Government of Punjab are hard pressed to take immediate and stern action.
g) Molvi Abdur Razzaq approaches the father of Mukhtaran, alongwith the media on 29th, and on 30th June 2002, an FIR is lodged.
h) Mukhtaran’s medical examination is carried out on 30th June 2002, after a lapse of 8 days and both external and internal swabs are found positive, a clinical impossibility. No bruises are found on her body either, although she is allegedly raped for one hour by 4 persons.
i) When Shakoor, the brother of Mukhtaran discovers that his sister is allegedly raped, he then accuses the defendants of committing sodomy with him. He does not do that earlier.
j) A rapist is not a terrorist but a case is then instituted in an anti-terrorist court at D G Khan. Unlike regular courts the ATC’s admit heresy as evidence. The decision of the court is released at 12.50 PM at night on 31.8.2002, as the judgment is going to and fro at the top provincial level through fax for additions/subtractions.
k) The trial court awards death sentence to the 4 alleged rapists, 2 jurors and acquits 8 of the accused. Mukhtaran then goes to the High Court against the acquittal of the 8 which overturns the decision of the ATC and acquits all the accused except one, the main. The Supreme Court later upholds the verdict of the Lahore High Court.
l) Has anybody considered the role of village rivalries, power of mullah holding the pulpit in a rural setting, not to forget the part played by Maulvi Salim in the famous Aasia Bibi case, role of media and press, particularly the eveningers, the vested interests of NGO’s and other stakeholders, the tremendous pressure being faced by the Federal and Provincial bureaucracy in cases which are internationalized.
m) 13 men proven innocent by the apex court remained in hell for 9 years, their families and future completely devastated. Should they not ask for compensation or file a criminal case of malicious implication after their exoneration? The question arises.
Now let us have a look at the Aafia Siddiqui case;
a) Karachi born American national Aafia Siddiqui goes to US in 1990, gets a full scholarship from MIT, later gets a doctorate on funding by the US and then is influenced by Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama Bin Laden.
b) In 1995 Aafia condemns Pakistan, when Pakistan asks US for help in combating religious extremism. Later while being tried in a US court, Pakistan government pays 2 million dollars to 3 lawyers to fight her case.
c) In May 2002 Aafia is questioned by FBI for purchasing night vision equipment, body armor and military manuals worth 10,000 dollars.
d) In August 2002 Aafia is accused of being abusive, manipulative and violent during 7 years of marriage by first husband Amjad and is divorced in Oct 2002.
e) In Feb, 2003 she marries Ammar al-Balochi, nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11 and cousin of Yousaf Ramzi who carried 1993 bombing of World Trade Centre.
f) During interrogation Khalid Sheikh Mohammed names Aafia as an Al-Qaida operative and in March 2003, the FBI issues a global “wanted for questioning” alert for Aafia.
g)On March 30th 2003 she along with her 3 children disappears from Karachi and nobody knows her whereabouts until July 2008,when she is arrested from Ghazni in Afghanistan while carrying a bag with documents describing how to make explosives and chemical weapons. During the 5 year period of her disappearance, her family remains silent.
h) The recently released Guantanamo Files by the “Guardian” reveal that Aafia was at the heart of a Karachi based Al-Quida cell between 2003 and 2004, and plotted to carry out attacks on economic targets inside US, on Heathrow and inside Pakistan.
i) The operation was to take place through an import-export business of textiles in collaboration with Saifullah Paracha, a Guantanamo bay detainee.
j) In 2004, the FBI places her on the list of world’s 7 most wanted Al-Qaida fugitives.
k) On 18th of July 2008 while being interrogated at an Afghan facility she allegedly picks up a rifle and fires at an American captain, misses her target and gets critically wounded when fired upon.
l) On 31st July 2008, Aafia is charged in a US court and on Sep 23rd 2010, she is sentenced to 86 years in prison.
I believe not many had knowledge of all the facts I have just highlighted. However the majority in our country would take a tough stance, full of emotions when it comes to Mukhtaran and Aafia, completely setting aside the downside of the stories of these two women. Realistic appreciation and skepticism which is at the heart of scientific approach is completely missing. On the other hand we immediately get charged and begin to labelize others when anything they say does not coincide with our own views. The dialogue comes to an end and that leads us nowhere.
But let us not forget that today, only those cultures have the potential to survive in a world of science and technology which promote dispassionate objectivity and not illogical emotionality.
|Waseem Altaf is a human rights activist. .|