Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Gather Together in Kishwar Naheed’s name


In arguments Kishwar Naheed loves tearing apart her opponents—and if her opponent happens to be a man she takes special pleasure in knocking him down and triumphantly chafing her foot on his chest. When this most famous feminist from Pakistan talked to a mostly male crowd on Friday, March 21, she spoke with persuasion and made sure everybody knew who was the boss in that room. Meeting with Kishwar Naheed was arranged by Dr. Khawaja Ashraf, editor of the online Pakistan Weekly dot com. The program was attended by prominent Bay Area Pakistani writers and poets.

Prodigious Kishwar Naheed has earned a name writing excellent poetry and working for the feminine cause. She is Pakistan’s perennial delegate to the women conferences all over the world. Lab-i goya, Naheed's first poetry book, published in 1968, won the prestigious Adamjee Prize of Literature. Since then her pen never stopped writing about the social and sexual exploitation of women in the Subcontinent.

Talking to the group in Pinole, near Berkeley, Kishwar Naheed explained how she was born the year of the Pakistan declaration; the partition related carnage robbed the innocence off her childhood; her youth was marred by violence associated with the separation of the East Pakistan; and since then she has seen nothing but mayhem.

The group talked about the various aspects of the Pakistani politics and society. Some of the themes of the conversation (positions maintained by
individuals) are presented below.

Re: Pak Army’s interference in Pakistani politics

1. Generals must be pushed back. The sooner it is done the better.

2. We need to sign peace accords with our neighbors and get rid of the army (the damage done to
the country by the Pak Army greatly outweighs any good done by that institution). Pakistanis
living in Pakistan are too weak to fight their exploiters; help of overseas Pakistanis is needed in
getting the army off Pakistanis’ backs.

3. People related with the Forces constitute a significant portion of the populace. They too are the
part of the Pakistani society. We are not against them, but we just want to cut them to their size.

Re: Hope in the society

1. With each change in the government the people of Pakistan set their hopes high, and they were
let down in each case. People have lost all hope and they don’t believe any positive change is
possible in the society (this in turn makes us destined for perpetual failure).

2. People running the NGOs and young people returning to Pakistan are very promising. They
know that they have to live there and they are determined to make it a better place.

Re: Growing Fundamentalism

Two of the four Pakistani provinces are being run by people who believe co-education is what is keeping Pakistan behind. Their idea of Islam is to make life tough for women and deny any opportunities to them.

The evening ended with a light discussion on the Cricket World Cup. Except for a couple of nationalist Pakistanis whose test of loyalty to Pakistan is in putting India down, most were cheering the Indian team in the Final against Australia. With their favorite team out of the competition the Pakistanis wanted to see the team from their part of the world win the cup. One man was heard saying to the nationalists: “Go, look at yourself in the mirror. Cheer Australia if you look like Ricky Ponting. I know that I look like Ganguly so I’ll be supporting India.”