May issue 2009
Cover Up, Or Else …
Several women journalists and activists attending the open-house session of the South Asian Women in the Media (SAWM), Sindh chapter, at the Karachi Press Club, expressed growing concern at the manner in which they were being ordered to cover their heads, stop working and stay at home through text messages on their mobiles.
The session followed a talk by Dr Fouzia Saeed, social activist and member of the National Commission on the Status of Women, on the creeping Talibanisation in the country and its impact on society in general, and women, in particular.
Dr Saeed focused on the dynamics between the political leadership, the provincial bureaucracy and the military’s role and verified that what was happening in Swat was against the people’s will. Those who are moving out of Swat are extremely unhappy about the silence of the general public on the Talibanisation of the valley. She also raised concerns about the presence of the Taliban in many other parts of the country, including Islamabad and Karachi.
In fact, she remarked that there were enough Taliban being bred in Islamabad’s many madrassas who could take over the capital. She said the Red Mosque cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, who was recently released on bail, was welcomed like a Nelson Mandela. She emphasised the need for clearing out all ambiguities in this regard and adopting a clear stance against extremism. She mentioned some initiatives, including rallies by the Women’s Action Forum and a poster campaign (Taliban Bhagao, Mulk Bachao) by the Amankaar Tehrik, among the few initial steps being taken by the citizens.
The discussion also focused on the extremely dubious role played by several leading news channels in creating confusion in the minds of the general public and projecting extremists who were going around beheading local people, lashing women and burning down schools as “heroes waging jihad against the Americans.”
One journalist revealed how a leading channel had accused activist Samar Minallah of being a CIA agent and of being on the payroll of the Americans. She was asked to say that the Swat lashing video was made in a studio in the US.
SAWM, a network of women in the media which was set up last October, intends to work out a joint strategy with other women’s groups and NGOs to articulate their concerns against the growing threat of extremism to women.