Person of the year

5

In the early 1980s, a small group of gutsy women came together to oppose the adverse effects on women of martial law and General Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation campaign. In 1983, they took to the streets in Lahore, protesting the case of a blind girl, Safia Bibi, who had been raped but had ended up in jail, instead, on charges of adultery. Of the few photographs that survive of that protest, there is one that stands out — a black-and-white image of a female activist being hustled away by law-enforcement personnel.

Behind her, in the distance, a crescent-shaped crowd of curious men observe the spectacle with slack-jawed interest. A car trundles past, its driver similarly fascinated by the scene unfolding before him: the woman frozen in an awkward, furious dance with two struggling female police officers. If you look closely, you will recognise this young woman – today, three decades on, she is this country’s most celebrated human-rights activist. But recognition doesn’t really matter. You will remember her anyway, especially her eyes — her angry, indignant eyes, alight with Promethean fire.

The girl on the cover of this magazine does not have angry eyes. But the story of this child activist has evoked more anger and horror, along with a slew of more mixed emotions, in Pakistan and abroad. In a sense, it is a chapter from the same story — the story of violence against women, the story of their suppression and the suppression of those who speak out in their support. On one level, this story plays out every day; on occasion, it catapults into national consciousness, then tumbles back into the black hole of collective memory. Safia Bibi, Mukhtaran Mai, that nameless woman who was flogged in Swat, blasphemy-convict Asia Bibi too, and by extension, Salmaan Taseer — they are all new actors in an old play.

5 thoughts on “Person of the year

  1. Just imagine, if a little teen age girl can be the person of the year in this country. Then God knows how we can run or manage anything possibly big or complicated this country is currently facing? Small brainies small thinking.

    • Well said, if I may ad a bit “Every branch is taken by an owl, God knowns what will happen of the orchard”. After all, now the sons and daughters of the soil have taken the full charge of the country. God help Pakistan.

  2. Any group can be a barbarian; it requires a terrible effort to remain a civilized.
    The shooting has shocked Pakistan, a nation long hardened to sickening acts of violence.This was a shocking act of violence against a 14-year girl who has bravely been fighting for her right to education. The Taliban and its backers (PTI,IJI, PML(N)) bear the responsibility for the consequences of this outrageous act. Malala became the voice of all girls in the world. May ALLAH bless her.

  3. I am amazed to see some comments criticizing Malala and those who support Malala story. Malala is courageous who spoke out against the atrocities of Taliban. You will realize her courage when you visit some Taliban dominated region.
    Moreover, If westerners use Malala chapter for promoting female education around the globe then what is wrong there. She has become a symbol and world needs symbolic people to promote a cause. My request to my countrymen is: be positive

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