Stories about tribal areas

Ali Begum: A symbol of grit and perseverance making history in a no woman’s land

While there is no denying the fact that the expertise and contributions of men and women alike are sine qua non (essential) for the establishment of a prosperous and progressive society, it is also a grim and acrimonious reality that women in the tribal areas of Pakistan are excluded from the decision-making and nation-building processes. This callous attitude towards women is leading us nowhere. Notwithstanding our patriarchal and ultra-conservative society where gender discrimination and a misogynistic mindset still prevail, there is a valiant and indomitable woman who is defying the stereotypes of a male-dominated tribal society. Ali Begum, a woman who not ...

Read Full Post

It wasn’t state facilitation but years of political neglect that turned FATA into an extremist stronghold

Whilst our civilian rulers have borne significant calumny for their dismal governance since the return of the democratic regime in 2008, there remain some feathers in the cap they can yet point to when juxtaposed with their military counterparts. Take the 18th Constitutional amendment for example. Since independence, successive military regimes have sought to consolidate power in the centre, perpetrating a phantom federation which in turn fuelled discontent and separatist-ism throughout the smaller provinces. The unitary propensity of the establishment also played a vital role in the East Pakistan debacle in 1971. The 18th amendment represented a break from this past, bringing about an inclusive administrative system by ...

Read Full Post

Za Pakhtoon Yum: A mind-altering foray into Pukhtun life and culture

So far, our dramas have revolved around the vicious circle of poverty, a miserable daughter-in-law suffering at the hands of her evil in-laws, societal customs, dowry issues, giving birth to a male child or the perfect ‘rishta’ (proposal). Indeed these are issues which need to be addressed in dramas or movies, but there are other issues that require our attention as well. With the passage of time, we, Pakistanis, have come across many complex issues segregating our society into small groups, each intolerable for the other. We have issues ranging from the Shia-Sunni to the Punjabi-Pukhtun, anti-women empowerment to pro-women empowerment, even from the pro-Malala ...

Read Full Post

FCR: Man playing god with the people of Fata

FATA is home to approximately 10 million people. These people may be called ‘Pakistani’ citizens, but the reality is – they are not. Even after 67 years of independence, despite being a strategic part of Pakistan, the constitution of the country simply does not apply here. Why? Good question. What is worse is that the laws that do, in fact, apply are a set of colonial laws formulated and enacted by the British more than a century ago! Some of these date all the way back to 1893, when the Durand Line was drawn by colonialists. A single visit to Fata will demonstrate ...

Read Full Post

‘The Wandering Falcon’: Understanding Balochistan, the literary way

Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon cruised into my bucket list when it was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize and Commonwealth Book Prize, but that was not the sole reason for it clicking with me. It was the debut work of the author at the age of 78 and was written long before we mired our stream of consciousness by replacing people with numbers and empathy with stock language for the tribal people of Pakistan. Penned down some 34 years ago, the work of fiction has become extremely relevant to the current global situation rampant with discourse of convenience. The short stories shot to ...

Read Full Post

Oh great government of Pakistan, take notice of the female aid workers in Balochistan, don’t alienate them!

On my recent trip to Balochistan, I came across examples of how women folk fare in tribal set-ups. While we, in the urban centres, believe that women are usually ignored and not allowed to contribute to society in tribal arrangements, the Baloch tradition has a very unique way of putting their women to good use. Tribal feuds and enmities usually span over generations. So when all else fails, the hidden asset – the women – is consumed. The women of the tribe seeking to reconcile are sent to the other tribe. These women then beg for forgiveness for the men folk of ...

Read Full Post

Trigger happy in Karachi

I grew up in a city where guns were unheard of. People moved about freely. Neighbours, family and friends dropped in without informing. Gates were left open and doors unlocked. We were taught never to point a gun at anyone or even threaten anyone. We were repeatedly reminded of guns being a matter of life and death and a grave responsibility. The only exposure we had to guns was when we went up North during summers. Over there, a man was not a man unless he had a gun hanging on his shoulder as carrying guns signified manhood. Pakistani laws ...

Read Full Post

The Baloch tribal system isn’t all that bad

Bijjar is a Balochi word which means cooperation or help. We have all heard our esteemed intellectuals on national television talk about how the tribal system has multiple drawbacks. The primary reason these intellectuals like to rail against the tribal system is because they themselves have minimal knowledge about this structure. Their knowledge about the tribal system is restricted merely to its problems, which encompass things like the Sardari system, a hierarchy where the head is a sardar (chief), the exploitation by feudal lords, the culture of ammunition and strict ideologies against women education. Unquestionably, some aspects of the tribal system do more harm than good to a ...

Read Full Post

A woman’s perspective: Pakistan must not negotiate!

As a woman, you grow up under the shadow of men. You look up to them to make important decisions for you. Ranging from how you have to eat and address your peers to what you should be studying, who you should be marrying, how to protect your body, your offspring, what’s the appropriate time for you to hang up the phone to how fragile your reputation is in a patriarchal society such as ours. Your self- worth becomes a bit of a joke – a paradox and a concept that Pakistani women, quite obviously, are still struggling with. Are we ...

Read Full Post

Peace talks or muscle power, that is the question

Pakistan may finally be getting more serious about tackling its militancy problem. But don’t get your hopes up. For years, the US government has pushed Pakistan to crack down harder on militancy and for years, Islamabad has largely refused. Instead, it has dithered as extremist violence has spread across the country. Last week, investigative journalist Umar Cheema revealed that Pakistan’s previous government used a secret counter-terror fund to purchase jewels, rugs and even sacrificial goats. Yet the tides may be turning. Last week, Pakistan was rocked by a rapid succession of bomb blasts, including attacks on consecutive days that killed Pakistani soldiers in the northwest and ...

Read Full Post