The ‘Aurat March’ here on the 8th of March coincides with the ‘International Women’s Day’ which is observed as a Civil awareness day for Women and girls and also as Anti-sexism day and Anti-Discrimination Day. Celebrating such ideals should not have been a source of threat and annoyance to anyone of course except to those who have an inborn insecurity about women having a say over their lives; for unfortunately lives of women have been decided by and dictated by the patriarchy which prevails in most societies for long and these insecure ones feel threatened and imperiled by the freedom that women may succeed in securing by expressing their resentment and defiance at the male dominated homes, societies and states. There are many who feel that this will lead to an end to their absolute rule over women and consequently term the protest and expression of defiance by women as something vulgar and unacceptable. Losing power and authority which is not based of justice always evokes a brutal response from those threatened so these very fanatical and frenzied elements among them, and they abound, resist women rights desperately and that is what we are witnessing here today.
Regressive societies treat women as chattel and property and it is a fact that regressive societies are sustained by and thrive in regressive states. Aurat March is not only a social action but in essence naturally a political act; for without fighting for undoing and defeating the regressive states and their organized and systematic patriarchy the regressive societies cannot be undone and real liberation of women will remain an unfulfilled dream forever.
This liberation battle is not only for physical liberation but also for the liberation of soul because eons of domination have not only resulted in physical subjugation but also subjugation of mind and soul too so unless this battle for physical liberation includes battle for liberation of soul and mind the battle for physical liberation will remain a zero-sum game. There are indeed overwhelming odds in achieving these ends but unless there is concerted and persistent fight for these multiple goals victory will elude us.
This battle is hard enough even for those sectors of society and regions where education is widespread and women can, though with difficulty, pursue careers and have some independence now imagine the obstacles and odds that Baloch women have to surmount even to secure education which may then translate into careers and a semblance of apparent freedom and rights to decide about what they can do with their lives.
The Baloch women not only have to deal with a regressive society and a regressive state but also with a brutal, repressive state which denies them and the men of their nation of rights which are thought acceptable for others. The fallout of the brutality of the state affects the women even more than it does the men. There are mothers who do not know where their sons are, there are sisters who do not know where their brothers are, there are wives who do not know if they are widows or can they hold out hope of return of their husbands, there are daughters who do not know if they are orphans and will ever have a father’s shoulder to cry on and hold on for support.
This means that the Baloch women have to battle a lot more odds than the others and in this they need to be supported by all those who fight for women rights and liberation from regressive societies and repressive states for unless the fight that Baloch women fight is also joined by others it will result in alienation and trust deficit between Baloch women and women of other regions; this will be the inevitable result if Baloch women feel others are disowning them and their fight.
Baloch women will however continue their fight for their survival and rights but will rightly feel betrayed and ignored by others in their battle for emancipation. Progressive women have stood up for Baloch women but where are so many others who have a voice which may have been heard afar have not stood up for them. This is for all to decide if this fight is for all women or is this a fight for specific areas and classes only. This fight has to transverse the entire spectrum if it is to be a deterring force against the repressors and resisters of women’s rights. The tapestry of women fight for rights will remain unfinished and blemished if Baloch rights are excluded.
The state here last year accused four Baloch women of Awaran of terrorism and presented them to public view with the alleged arms that were found with them but later released saying there wasn’t any evidence; this brazen and blatant humiliation and degradation of Baloch women didn’t find much sympathy and support elsewhere for Baloch people stereotyped as separatists do not evoke the same feelings that people of other regions do. Moreover, when Baloch girl students of Bolan Medical College were hauled off to thanas in police vans for demanding their rights the sky didn’t fall down as it would have had 20 girl students been hauled off to a thana in Lahore or Karachi. Fight for rights cannot be selective it has to be inclusive to make headway and succeed; neglecting Baloch women rights and hoping for victory will be futile as an entire flank of the battle formation is being left to fend on its own and that isn’t an acceptable or wise battle strategy.
Unfortunately, since long the Baloch women are being left to fend for themselves no one owns Farzana Majeed, Sammi Baloch and Karima Baloch who have been direct victims of state repression. Farzana Majeed and Sammi Baloch along with other women and girls marched for 106 days for their brothers and fathers but found support only among some radical and progressive sections. On the contrary Qandeel Baloch secured the status of icon among the liberal classes which hardly even acknowledge existence of Farzana, Karima, Sammi and thousands of other Baloch women who have suffered at the hands of state.
Standing up for Qandeel Baloch earns plaudits but standing up for Farzana Majeed and Karima Baloch and their cause invites ire and wrath of State as was recently seen when people protested for rights of Manzoor Pashteen. Fight for rights was never easy and of late has become harder because the rulers are insecure and patriarchs feel threatened. All should look introspectively and say who stands for what and who of these mentioned above deserves their support. I will not decide this for you this is something that everyone’s conscience has to answer. I know these are bitter pills to swallow but unless bitter pills are swallowed the health of ‘Aurat March’ cannot be guaranteed.