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By Fatima Ahmed


Pashtuns should condemns the lashing of one of our daughter and sister and demands that it is not the few people holding the girl and lashing her, who need to be punished but the solution lies in confronting the ideologies, parties and institutions which sponsor these actions.

The video of a 16 years old Afghan/Pashtun girl in showing the barbaric incident that happened in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where girl is being whipped while she is forced to lay face down on the ground in broad day light, in front of hundreds of people; is now talk of the town across the world. Having been forced by the wide condemnation of the incident across the world spearheaded by the bloggers and facebook phenomena, the video was aired by the Punjab dominated Pakistani media. After watching this video and reaction of the Government of Pakistan, important political, social, religious figures and common people on the Pakistani electronic media, one is encouraged that if we speak up, the government can be forced to listen.

Let me first commend the people on the websites, bloggers, journalists and wider cross-section of people, for writing about this heinous incident and speaking up, particularly Pashtun Diaspora and our other friends. I specially appreciate the foreigners who have joined those of us who chose to speak out on the issue. It is all because of these efforts that the Pakistani media was forced to broadcast it widely and the government had to acknowledge that it has happened.

However, there are now few important issues which need to be relentlessly highlighted to force the Pakistani authorities to follow up on their promises to investigate in a transparent fashion and bring those elements to justice who perpetrate, sponsor and support these barbaric crimes. Firstly, in a typical hypocritical fashion, the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, have condemned the incident and directed that the perpetrators be brought to justice. This is a good start, however, it must just be a first step in the process of reversing this slide of barbarism.. Stopping just at this must be absolutely unacceptable. It is not the few people holding the girl and lashing her, who need to be punished, as ordered by President Zardari. The solution lies in confronting the ideologies which sponsor these actions: forces like Jamat –e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema–e-Islam, Pakistan Tehrik –e-Insaf and the plethora of other religious groups who use religion as their tool to commit such shameful actions and establish their control over the areas. The solution lies in holding the leadership of these groups accountable. The likes of Fazlullah, Sufi Mohammad, Muslim Khan, Faqir Muhammad, Mangalbagh etc. need to be held and brought to justice to prevent the spreading of these ideologies in the Pakhtun areas. The most tangible solution lies in bringing the intelligence agencies of Pakistan under ‘control', because they are the one who nurture these terrorist groups and train them to perpetrate such actions. The solution lies in accepting that these proxies are doing great disservice to humanity, Islam. Pakistan needs to stop using this kind of religious extremist ideology to pursue its strategic interests. Pashtuns and the free world must come together, focus on these issues and highlight them at all available forums.

Secondly, most religious leaders, the so called Ulema (religious scholars) and mullahs of Pakistan have tried to confuse the issue and tried to justify the incident using various excuses. For example, Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman, inspite of condemning it out rightly, tried to interpret it as Quranic punishment. Rather than condemning it, he tried to confuse the issue by discussing the presence of ‘mehram' or namehram or punishment being given in public or otherwise. Similarly, Liaqat Baloch of JI, instead of condemning it, has tried to use it as a pretext to criticise the NWFP government of Awami National Party (ANP) for the peace deal with Taliban. We must continue our efforts to force the clergy to stop twisting the facts and come out in the open to take position on this very important issue of Pashtun's history. They should either support or condemn such like actions. They have to be forced to publicly distance themselves from such like incidents and stop legitimising these elements.

Thirdly, this is not the only incident of its type. Such like incidents are happening on daily basis in Federally Administered Area (FATA) and Swat valley. The so called civil society of Pakistan and the lawyers movement, joined by the PML(N), JI, PTI etc who forced the PPP led govt to restore the chief justice, has a moment of truth facing them. Whether this movement for justice was for justice only in Punjab and other urban areas or the Pashtuns also deserve similar justice, rule of law, democracy and peace. It is time that these forces must once again be galvanised to rise and launch a movement calling for an end to the policies which resulted in these incidents and imposition of the barbaric rule of Taliban on the poor masses of Swat and Malakand.

Fourthly, the judiciary has to be persuaded and tested to demonstrate its recently won independence and uphold the slogan of 'JUSTICE FOR ALL'. The Chief Justice has taken a start by taking a suo-motto action on the incident. Now the judiciary and legal fraternity must clearly voice their opinion about this barbaric system of dispensation of justice and force the government to prevent imposition of this violent, inhuman and barbaric legal system in Pashtuns part of Pakistan. It is only then that their commitment to justice and rule of law can be vindicated.

Fifthly, the political parties must be forced to come out in the open on the issue of imposition of so called Sharia in Swat and Malakand. Either there has to be Sharia for the whole of Islamic Republic of Pakistan or none at all. The ANP has to clarify that the deal with the Taliban has been sponsored by whom? Who has been working behind the scenes to portray it as a deal done by the provincial government so that the whole responsibility has been shifted to the Pashtuns? Why has the ANP accepted it and why has it gone against its established policy of remaining anti-clergy and anti-mullah to appease the Taliban? The PPP has also to clarify whether they support ‘Taleban' kind of justice? If so, why not in the rest of the country? Isn't the remaining country called 'The Islamic Republic of Pakistan'? JI, the many factions of JUI particularly the one lead by the master hypocrite Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman have to be forced to take up a position. This is important so that Pashtuns and the world must know who stands where on the imposition of this barbaric rule on the people of FATA, Swat and Malakand. Most important of all the never tiring, beardless Talib, Imran Khan of PTI has to clarify if this is the kind of justice he supports to be dispensed in Swat? Does he consider it to be in reaction to the American presence in Afghanistan; as it is his often repeated argument in support of Taliban?

And finally, Pashtun have to highlight it to the international actors, media, human rights organisations, think-tanks and political leaders that this phenomena is going to spread to the whole of the region if not confronted and for that Pakistan has to be forced to change its strategic posture of using Islamic extremism to pursue its strategic interests. Pakistan has to be forced to give its citizens their due rights irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, colour and creed or geo-strategic location. A 16 year old girl has the same right to justice and has the same human rights...be it in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi or Swat...there is no question about it.