Monday, March 5, 2012


Once upon a time, long, long ago…around four hundred years ago, to be exact, there was a distant land called Mianwali. Two of the tribes were fighting a long, drawn-out war. 800 lives were lost and no end was in sight. At that point both tribes saw that the conflict was not going to end well for either side and decided that a compromise should be reached where either side can call a cessation of hostilities. So naturally, some asinine genius suggested that they should each give women to the other side as a token of their “good faith.” And the rest of the asinine geniuses agreed. And thus was born the disgusting tradition of Vani.
This story in itself is tragic enough, but the horror intensifies when we realize how prevalent it is in this day and age. A shameful incident, which should have been strangled at birth grew and blossomed, blatant, repeated and unchecked.
This is a country that boasts female political leaders, ambassadors, educators, activists, doctors, lawyers….the list goes on. On the flip side of this progressive façade is the complete annihilation of women’s dignity and integrity on multiple levels. Women are traded like animals. Once traded, they loose all identity all hope. Their basic rights lie at the mercy of their masters.
Infant girls are traded as  acts of rectification or a gestures of reconciliation. How does a country with any kind of discernible judicial system stand impotently by and do so little to erase this damning tradition?
In Pakistan, all indicators of violence are present: poverty, discrimination, ignorance and social unrest.  We can blame one or all of them. But in my opinion, it is the cultural forces and their advocates that are the enemies of women’s dignity and freedom. The tribal leaders who defend these traditions claim that methods like Vani conserve peace and prevent bloodshed but in reality their main function seems to be the preservation of male domination and the total and complete subjugation of women.
Pakistan has laws against all violence against women and it consistently makes feeble attempts to bring the detractors to justice. But even if one abuser goes unpunished, it is inexcusable. It should be acknowledged as a failure of justice, not as a “well, we tried!” scenario. Women are kept away from education and enlightenment. They are brought up to be docile and submitting through conditioning. They are kept away from outside influences and they believe that once they step out of their homes in search of help, they will suffer a more horrible fate than what they are going through now.

The lawmakers in Islamabad have failed their most vulnerable citizens once again! Women are bound with the chains of financial dependence and poor education and these bindings are enforced by violence from the very people who should be protecting them.
Female empowerment is not a curse. It is latent potential waiting to explode. How can a country ever hope to prosper when it tells its women that they are not worth saving? That their life, their dignity, their honor bear no value? They are degraded from the day they are born and become prisoners of “the apartheid of gender,” a term coined by James P. Grant, the former executive director of UNICEF.
Then comes along a news article -- a blog or an Oscar Award winning documentary -- that picks at a scab and exposes the oozing reality of the unreported and ignored violence, which is part of the culture of Pakistan. The world sees it. Let this spur us on out of our apathy and compel us to erase these shameful traditions which have no place in a progressive society.
People who are dedicating their lives to abolish this heinous practice have stated time and time again that reform of the Vani laws and greater commitment from local authorities are crucial for ending the custom.
My question is to the sons of Pakistan and especially to PTI’s Imran Khan, a Mianwali native and a self-proclaimed champion of the masses: do you not hear their cries? The women of Pakistan demand to be saved. They don’t need you to beat a path of gold for them so they can walk up to the door of success. They can do that all by themselves! All they need is for someone to stand in front of them long enough so that they can take that first breath of freedom without choking on sorrow. Once they are on their feet, watch them stand with you and transform this country into the heaven that it was meant to be, when the founders first started fighting for it!  


  1. Yet another mind boggling masterly written blog by the author. I'm impressed with the depth and clarity of thoughts and even more impressed with how beautifully those thoughts were penned down on the paper. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you ibadrehman. Your comments are very kind.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you so much Maliha Khan. Keep these conversations going.