Qandeel Baloch the shame or pride of a nation shook to it’s foundation by her brutal murder at the hands of her brother Waseem in the name of “honor”.
Another victim to a word for which countless women have been raped, killed and burned, It is a wonder indeed that our ‘ghairat’ is still able to bear the burden of such a body count.
Today the debate ignited by the very mention of her name features a very familiar dialogue; “what her brother did was wrong…BUT-“. we live in a society of narrow dichotomy, women are either obedient, pure, good or sluts.
Who decides who is who? why men of course.
At the sight of an apparently “badly-behaved” woman the collective conscience of our country often rises to unparalleled heights of hypocrisy. The pasty faced youths who gave Qandeel thousands of views on every video or picture are the same who took such pains to remind her that this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
If only such conscientiousness could’ve made an appearance when a fourteen year old girl was stripped naked and paraded through the streets of Dera Ismail Khan for an hour last week. or when Mukhtar bibi was gang raped by five men in front of a local jirga or when Zeenat bibi was burned alive for not wanting to marry of her parent’s choice or when 250 children in Kasur were sexually abused and filmed by their rapists. Sabeen Mahmud, Perween Rahman and countless others have become the symbols of this “Islamic Republic”.
You know them, we all know them, they are the salivating reapers who dog your steps on the way to your workplace, who slip their gazes over you as if its a law of the land. They are the reason you steel your gaze and quicken your pace, this collective mass that seems to remain fixated on the actions of women in Pakistan.
So many of our problems would be solved if they simply looked away.
Then how do we come to terms with Qandeel of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
The underprivileged feminist icon we’ve all been waiting for? or professional whore who ‘got what she deserved’? Qandeel was not an icon but she was not a victim either,
We should shy away from making the same mistake others have, we cannot categorize the lived experiences of women in Pakistan into neat little boxes. Rather we should acknowledge that Qandeel was an amalgamation of the circumstances of women in Pakistan.
Without the veneer of privilege that many of us depend on Qandeel was tossed into the seething mass that makes up our media industry. paired with the general unavailability of jobs for women without education and sans ‘safarish’ its not a far off assumption to say that we created Qandeel Baloch.
But if there is one word we can use for Qandeel its defiant.
Despite the constant harassment, the death threats, the media sensationalism she pushed at the rigid boundaries of what women are ‘allowed’ to do in Pakistan. She supported her family, spoke on women’s rights and most importantly exposed the pseudo clergy men of our holy Islamic Republic for what they really were.
Let’s be clear we don’t need to ‘approve’ of her and clearly she never needed us to either. but we do need to examine why such a thirst for legitimization is required in our society.
I watched the Qandeel episode carry itself out with trepidation, dread and admiration for this woman who defied every convention and theoretical assumption about rural women in Pakistan. She utilized a medium characterized by exclusivity to earn, capitalizing on the very masses who were so scandalized by her audacity.
Though the scenario has been remarked on from every angle there is little said about the role media and demonic talk shows hosts like Mubashar Luqman, who gleefully laud confrontations between a supposed unislamic entity (mostly women) and supposed Islamic scholars, played in exacerbating the situation and leading to her murder.
Reports are flooding in now of Mufti Qavi possibly being behind her murder and somewhere with a cheeky smile and lilting English accent Qandeel is mocking all of us.
I cannot answer, so reductively, as to what Qandeel was, but to those who see memorials in her name or articles praising her actions and feel discomfited, to those who reiterate how ‘beyghairat’ she was or how she shouldn’t have done the things she did because it doesn’t suit our ‘culture’, to those who say “her brother shouldn’t have killed BUT-“,
I would like to assure you that we will bandy Qandeel around for as long as we can, we will proclaim her, we will iconize her, we will not forget Qandeel or the countless others that ghairat has claimed.