Abira Ashfaq

Abira Ashfaq

A law teacher in Karachi who works with human rights organisations. She tweets @oil_is_opium. (twitter.com/oil_is_opium)

Fathers will continue to murder their 12-year-old daughters

The statistics available on domestic violence and other forms of violence against women are startling. According to a NIPS survey, 37 per cent of those surveyed experienced violence – 57 per cent in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). More than half of the women who have ever experienced physical violence have never sought help or told anyone about the violence. Forty three per cent of women stated that a husband is justified in beating his wife if she argues with him, neglects the children, refuses to have sex with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the in-laws, or burns the food. The stories highlighted by the media ...

Read Full Post

Reinstate the moratorium on the death penalty!

As a legal and human rights defenders’ community, we should condemn the Peshawar attack and express solidarity with the victims. However, lifting the moratorium and executing prisoners on death row will not eliminate the threat of terrorism and militancy or make us safer. It will be another step towards eradicating the constitutional rights of ordinary citizens.  Shafqat Hussain’s case has nothing to do with terrorism and seems more like a public relations gesture to appease public outrage at the heinous and barbaric attack of December 16th. As Reprieve points out, Hussain is of poor background, and was 14-years-old at the time of the offence. ...

Read Full Post

Young global leaders: What it means to the common man

An author from Counterpunch says,  “After all, despite the pretentious claims of improving the state of the world, Davos is really little more than a posh mountain retreat held for global elites hell-bent on preserving their own privileged class positions.” Likewise, YGL is about picking leaders who will perpetuate the inequities of the world through an anti-poor economic order governed by neo liberal philosophy of privatisation, taking subsidies away from the poor, and making the world an association of large global malls and corporations. Thus the question is wrong. “Do the four chosen from Pakistan (Maryam Nawaz, documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, founder ...

Read Full Post

Why the anti-Muslim ads in New York City were not hate speech

Offensive ads have been showing on New York City buses and in subway station.  One reads, “In any war between the civilised man and the savage, support the civilized man.” Beneath that, in blue, were two Stars of David, and the words, “Support Israel.” Below that, in red text, it read, “Defeat Jihad.“ Surely, this is politically incorrect in a world where human rights discourse has more or less permeated consciousness.  If teachers in colleges made such statements, many would boycott their classes – if employees at the office water cooler called Muslims savages, it’d be the subject of a workplace controversy. Why was the ad ...

Read Full Post

Vukla diaries: The answer is no

Does the little litigant have a chance to be heard in High Court? Can you ever be safe from the treachery of peers? Do young women lawyers even stand a chance? With a heaviness in my heart, the answer to all of the above questions is no, and it took me all of May to figure it out. Last week, students and I sat in Justice MB’s courtroom. MB was not a PCO judge; he is principled, sweet, and likable. But likability does not change systems. The courtroom was crowded with men, and a handful of hassled women with covered ...

Read Full Post

Saving Face: An Oscar for mediocrity?

In February, when Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Film, Saving Face, on acid burn victims won an Oscar, I was sceptical. Accolade seemed to focus on how great it was for Pakistan to have this honour – and whenever people get jingoistic, you know that the core may be hollow.   Frankly, there are two reasons why the film won the Oscar: excellent public relations work, and choice of topic that fits the western narrative of acceptable ways to talk about Muslim women – as victims of patriarchal religious violence without any emphasis on the larger socio-economic context in which this violence ensues and whether there are ...

Read Full Post

Javed Chaudhry’s misogynistic excuse for violence against women

In a column published on April 1 in the Urdu newspaper Daily Express, Javed Chaudhry  expresses his disapproval for a man who had paid another Rs100,000 to attack his estranged wife by throwing acid on her face.  Even in his attempted condemnation, the language he uses to describe her injuries is detailed, graphic and inappropriate.  “Hadiyan nangi ho gain. Aankh ubal kar bahir aa gai” (Bones were bare. The eye was singed and protruding) But then, these descriptions become downright pornographic as his ultimate thesis becomes apparent; perhaps, women incite violence because of their own insubordination, give or take a few innocent victims.  The narrative focuses ...

Read Full Post

The terrible appeal of Humsafar

The appeal of Humsafar is obvious. You could cut through the weird chemistry between Khirad and Ashar, the hero authors of romance novels would be envious of. Eye candy, nakedly sexual, he stares arduously at his love interest with desire that would give the Grammarian and the Aisha Bawany schoolgirl goose bumps. He is clean cut. He smiles infrequently and when he does, it seems as if it were a gift. Physical contact is at a minimum. Sex is implied, and there is a chastity reminiscent of Zia-era dramas that drives people insane with tension. Khirad on the other hand, played by the cherubic ...

Read Full Post

Teacher, don’t stand so close to me

We’ve all done it when we were awkward and fourteen. The teacher was probably not even young or good looking.  But we did it for approval, for love, for a better grade, to be admired.  A student of mine alerted me to an interested phenomenon recently. There was this girl who was most sober in my class, did her work, took copious notes, wrote at college level, her glasses high on her nose, she looked like she had just stepped out of Hajj.   My student told me in reference to her: “You should see her in the Eco teacher’s class. ...

Read Full Post

Shut down Wall Street

In the mid 90s I found myself in a wall street job because of a lack of really knowing what to do. It had its perks; it allowed me to live in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Par0k slope area for two years of my life, dine on sushi, and later take only the bare minimum loans for law school.  So much in the world has changed since then.   I remember a chilly October lunch date with a girl who worked at Lehman.  She was in a black suit and we both had a lunch of steamed rolls.  She wanted to ...

Read Full Post