Here is a revolutionary idea: Women. Are. Human. Activist Tahira Abdullah very simply, very plainly, very slowly, elegantly and very patiently explained this to Pakistan, and three men — Meray Paas Tum Ho writer Khalil ur Rehman Qamar, journalist Owais Tohid and the show’s host Ehtesham Amir-ud-Din — on Sunday night as they discussed the misogyny of the drama serial on SAMAA TV’s News Beat.
Her video went viral.
Abdullah gave a definition of Feminism, which the writer had publicly said was an“an organisation for bad women” earlier this month on Geo TV.
“Feminism is that revolutionary thinking that, unlike as Qamar sahib says, is not an organization,” said Abdullah. “It is an outlook, ideology, mindset… revolutionary ideology that understands that a woman is also human.”
Within this definition if you want, you can talk about being equal as humans, having the same rights as humans. You can discuss what is a good woman, bad woman, faithful woman, modest woman, one who is deserving of respect.
But then, she added, her “honour” was not in any man’s hand. “It lies within me, my person. My rights are not in any man’s hand to grant or withhold from me,” she said. “When I am created, born of a very same woman who man is born of, I bring with me my rights within my personhood, in the very same way I bring body, spirit, mind, heart and soul into this world…”
Those rights are enshrined, validated, protected, guaranteed in the Constitution of 1973.
Earlier in the show, News Beat’s host Ehtesham Amir-ud-Din asked Khalil ur Rehman why he seemed to dislike women when they have been a source of inspiration for men such as Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
“Of course not,” replied Rehman. “My beliefs regarding women’s status are stronger than yours. This [referring to the plot of his latest drama serial] was an event of disloyalty where it was said that if you are not mine, then I’m not yours either.”
Probing further, the host asked: “I saw an interview of yours where you said that women have ridiculed men and that men had been destroyed at the hands of women. You said that you pitied such men. Is this reflected in your work?”
“Never,” replied the writer. “There are incidents where men have disrespected women and we stand against them. We condemn that. But there are incidents where women have disrespected other women. We have seen that in our daily lives. We need to mutually solve these issues. We have to call out those who are guilty or do bad things.”
But had the writer ever highlighted the other side of the story? He said he had and gave the examples of Manjali, Pyare Afzal, Anokhi and Shaukat Ali. “I want my women to be strong,” he said. “I believe that women have a higher status than men. There are only certain places where men are above women and those areas are debatable. Men are physically stronger than women and often make use of it.”
Tahira Abdullah went on to say in the program that when there is talk about a woman’s loyalty and modesty these notions are defined by men who sell women to brothels.
Cutting her off, Rehman said that while he respected Abdullah, he did not know she would become irritated while discussing men.
“If you are not demanding any rights then what is the quarrel between us? You must enjoy your rights,” he said. “I never said anything against the Constitution. It says that men and women have equal rights. I do not agree with that.”
He then went on to reference the Aurat March to say: “When you march with placards, are you asking for rights from elephants and horses?” he said. “You are asking for your rights from men. You are unaware of your own rights. You want a part of men’s rights which you are never going to have. I’m the biggest feminist in Pakistan. Why don’t you find out what your rights are.”
The only problem is that perhaps Khalil ur Rehman is unaware that patriarchal, oppressive systems work: When women protest in a march to demand their rights, they are highlighting how they have been deprived of them. Take the example of, say the Rohingya or Kashmiri Muslims who need to demand their basic human rights which have been taken away by people in power.