Plight of the powerless


The incident that took place in Dera Ismail Khan two weeks ago in which a young girl was paraded naked through the streets of the town on the orders of a local jirga reminds us that we continue to live in highly uncivilised times. The act is a crime specifically defined under the law as one that must be penalised in the strongest possible manner. At the time of the heinous incident, the police had claimed to have arrested eight of the nine men involved and had promised that they would be punished in accordance with the law. There was reason to doubt this would happen even back then. According to reports, the girl’s ‘crime’ was that her brother was romantically involved with a woman from the perpetrator’s family and a panchayat had even ruled against him earlier.

We all know that such crimes of sexual humiliation against women – often legal minors – are often carried out brazenly by the powerful: those who have political connections or are among the most influential in their area. The police are always reluctant to act against them and even media pressure is not sufficient to whip them into action. In a rather serious development, a PTI MNA, Dawar Khan Kundi, wrote a letter to party chief Imran Khan last week accusing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Minister Ali Amin Gandapur of facilitating and now protecting the men. Unfortunately, the party leadership – which has always talked a good game about bringing a new, better form of governance – is yet to respond to the letter.

The girl’s plight doesn’t end there. When she recorded her statement in front of a judicial magistrate last Saturday, she revealed that the police had threatened her when she tried to register a case. This too is sadly routine in cases such as this. From those who carried out the sexual assault to those who are alleged to have abetted it to the law enforcement who should be investigating it, everyone is either upholding deformed notions of ‘honour’ or is too scared of taking on entrenched power to do anything about it. Sexual humiliation is routinely used to assert power over the most vulnerable among us and is then justified by asserting tradition. In this particular case, there have also been allegations by Kundi that Gandapur has links with members of banned outfits. Kundi has also said that this is why – apparently – Imran is scared to take Gandapur on. Of course, it goes without saying that these charges need to be investigated and no conclusions drawn before that is done; Gandapur at his end has strongly denied them. As always, those suffering the brunt of all this are those who do not have the power to fight back.courtesy editorial The News