Browsing "Punjab"

The republic of hate

Following the announcement and a TV report that Veena Malik wishes to join politics in Pakistan, some of us wondered what route she would take and what political party she would care to join. We had her pondering over her options in an interview published last week in The Friday Times. I, for one, wanted Veena Malik to get what she wanted and wished that people would forget about her past transgressions like they have done for other male politicians of Pakistan such as Imran Khan, Sheikh Rasheed, Faisal Saleh Hayat, Maulan Sami-ul-Haq (he even earned the not so respectable moniker of Maulana Sandwich because of his shenanigans) and Yousuf Raza Gilani to name a few.

But that was a few weeks ago, things changed drastically following the hunt against Geo after the attack on Hamid Mir and the all-out campaign invoking the blasphemy law against their morning show team for airing a particular song/qawali during the channel’s live morning transmissions. Veena Malik, her husband Asad Khattak and the host of the show had to leave the country as they were facing threats to their lives for partaking in the supposed blasphemy.

One of the most fascinating and horrifying aspects of this whole fiasco was how social media was used to incite hatred and to ridicule all the people involved in this incident. Not only did pages managed by hate groups fan the flames but regular folks like bankers, students, housewives who apparently used to hang on to every word the morning show host used to say, joined in the vicious attack. It looked as if it was a race to the bottom among all Pakistanis and everyone needed to out-ridicule and out-insult these people on the social media. One cursory look on twitter and facebook and so many images pop up where Hamid Mir’s face is photoshopped on the body of a Hindu priest or Shaista Wahidi is called ‘nangay liberal’ for wearing a burqa while fleeing the country. My personal favourite is one of a visiting card with logos of CIA, RAW and Mossad, Hamid Mir’s face and the word ‘Agent’ in bold print. Talk about being subtle – or NOT.

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One of the most recurring sentiment among the people commenting on facebook was that they were all glad that Veena and Shaista had to flee the country and how Pakistan is so much better off now that these two women are not here and are not spreading their brand of ‘behayae’ and ‘beghaerati’. What’s most tragic was the fact that majority of those commenting were women who were probably the most avid consumers of Shaista Wahidi’s morning show and Veena Malik’s performances in Hum Sab Umeed se Hain and Big Boss.

Shaista

All citizens, no matter how amazing or terrible their citizenship experiences have a very personal relationship with their country. Being told that you are not welcome in your own country because a powerful group perceives you to be anti-state or anti-religion or they just hate you because you want to practice what you believe in is cruel and should be a punishable crime because it is out rightly discriminatory. Unfortunately, everyone is so busy in outshouting the other in condemnation of those who are different or belong to a minority that it has become a valid social activity to collectively revile them at leisure.

Incitement of hatred against a person or a group of people is not something new in Pakistan. If anything, we have developed it as an art form. In the sixties, the hatred was focused against Bengalis, in the seventies, it was against the government of Balochistan and the Ahmadis (they were declared non Muslims in the constitution in 1974), in the nineties, MQM a Karachi-based political party was targeted and military operations against the party claimed many civilian lives who had nothing to do with party politics. In the present day Pakistan, hate speech against Ahmadis and Shias is not only the norm, it actually has gained currency among supposedly non violent Muslims. Seemingly progressive people balk at the idea of interacting with an Ahmadi, making friends with one is almost unimaginable.

In a post 9/11 world, hating anything that is perceived to be against mainstream Islam has gained immense popularity in Pakistan. In a race to prove oneself holier than the other religious sect or group, every Muslim is out for the blood of those who do not subscribe to what they consider is the right way of practicing religion. Honor killings citing Hudood as an excuse, random killings citing Blasphemy law as the reason have become so common that people do not even question them. In the land of the pure, a heinous crime like murder gets the makeover of avenging the honour of the family or the honour of the Prophet, the murderer gets garlanded and the victim does not get justice and everyone believes this is how things are supposed to be and there is nothing wrong with the society where murder gets social and legal sanction in the name of religion.

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Take the example of two recent murders in Punjab. Rashid Rehman, the human rights activist and lawyer was gunned down in his office for representing a young man Junaid Hafeez in court who was facing blasphemy charges. The opposing council along with members of the clergy had threatened Rehman repeatedly during press conferences covered by the media but following his murder, not a single one of those people were apprehended by the police. Chances are that the officer investigating that case will now be threatened by the same group. If he is smart and values his life, he probably will look the other way and life will just go on for everyone except Rashid Rehman’s family and Junaid Hafeez who in all likelihood will not get a lawyer again.

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The other murder, of Dr Ali Mahdi Qamar, was followed by a fatwa. This time, the fatwa was against a hospital Tahir Medical Center. Yes, we have progressed (read regressed) to the point that we are now issuing fatwas against buildings, institutions and other inanimate objects. The reason behind the fatwa was that the hospital was run by an Ahmadi charity. As the fatwa also declared any interaction with a ‘Qadiani’ haraam, getting free or paid treatment at the hospital was probably a Gunah-e-Kabira. Dr Qamar, a heart surgeon, flew in from Ohio for a week to conduct free surgeries in that hospital. The problem was that man donating his time and services was an Ahmadi. The fatwa-issuing body probably thought that their target audience may be lured to the said medical centre because there was an American surgeon performing free surgeries so they decided to take that threat away. Dr Ali Mahdi Qamar was shot dead on his second day in Pakistan. After that, people would obviously stay away from that hospital, Islam was saved and some people called dibs on a corner plot in jannat.


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The day is not far when Ahmadis would be required to wear a sign on their bodies like Jews did in Nazi Germany and the people would rejoice in that. What would happen when other groups would be subjected to this kind of criminal discrimination but there would be no one to question the tyranny of conformity?

Originally published in The Friday Times 

All photographs are taken from various facebook groups and pages.

 

Another victim of misogyny or is it Shariah!

Just about everyone, including UN Commission on Human Rights, has heard and condemned how Farzana Iqbal was pelted with stones and bricks outside Lahore High Court. Farzana was attacked by her family including her father, brothers and former fiance because she chose a marry a man she loved and her family did not approve of that union. She died as a result of that attack, her unborn child also died with her. As if that was not tragic enough, the newspaper report manage to push in a quote by a useless policeman  judging the husband for fleeing the scene to save his life and not being there to die with his wife.  The exact line was

A police official said Muhammad Iqbal was not near Farzana as she was attacked but did not try to prevent the attack, instead saving himself from the members of her family.

It was a brutal crime – a horrific murder – that was committed in front of many witnesses but given the way shariah has literally screwed with most laws in Pakistan, the murderers would not be apprehended because this is how qisas and diyat roll. Your family, instead of state has the power to pardon or seek money instead of justice. As most honour killings are committed by families, they decide pardon.  Husbands, fathers and brothers kill their female family members with impunity because they know that they can get away with it. At times, when they feel like killing someone else, they kill a female member of the family along with the other person to save their hides citing honour killing as a valid reason.

A good 15 years ago, I was interning for a human rights organization and I was given the task to go to court with one of the lawyers and to report on the way court works from a layperson’s view. I was quite excited because I had never seen a real court room before. My colleague was representing a woman seeking khula because her husband was violent and a serial rapist. I naively suggested that getting divorced under those circumstances would not be difficult. My colleague, who spent most of her professional life dealing with douches of all variety was a lot less optimistic. We went in the court room and my colleague presented a couple of witnesses who testified that the husband was indeed a sadistic violent man. The judge seemed uninterested through out and looked outside the tiny window during most of the proceedings. The minute we stepped out of the court room and into the veranda, the husband grabbed his wife and started beating her right there, in that corridor, in front of literally hundreds of people.

My colleague and I tried to stop that man, but after he pushed my colleague too hard, I did not go after him and tried to get the police constables on the duty to stop him, they did nothing more that to verbally ask him to not beat his wife. In the mean time, my lawyer colleague caught hold of the judge presiding that case and asked him to order the police or other court officials to stop it. The judge’s response was something that I will not forget till the day I die. He asked my colleague if the couple are still under nikah which was stupid because the lawyer was arguing for dissolution of that same nikah only a few minutes back. He then went on and said that as long as the woman is married to that man, he cannot do anything about it as it is a domestic matter, in any case, the religion allows it  (Jab tak yeh aurat apnay shuhar ke nikah mein hain, hum kuch nahen kar saktay, yeh gherloo azdawaji mamla hai, waisay bhi  mazhab ne ijazat dee huee hai). The husband also got his message across that he basically owns his wife so he left his sobbing wife behind and walked out of the court as if he did not break multiple laws in front of many witnesses. That was the day I realized for the first time that I was a second degree citizen in my own country and it was not just misogyny but the argument supporting misogyny that is at fault. Yes, I am talking about religious legislation and religious sanction that basically endorses every misogynist idea – be it polygamy, underage marriage, making husbands and fathers wali, Qanoon-e-shahadat, qisas, diyat, hudood to name a few.

The incident that happened 15 years back in Karachi High Court is responsible in a way for what happened with Farzana outside Lahore High Court. If that  judge had taken action against public display of violence against the wife back then, it would have set a precedent and perhaps more judges would have shown sensitivity in matters of gender discrimination.

Every one and his dog has condemned this murder but condemnation is cheap, it did not save Farzana and nor will it save future Farzanas. Everything is set against women – the legislation is against women when they get half the share in inheritance and their witness is considered to be half of that of a man. The society favours men, the economy favours men by recognizing their labour and paying them more for the same job, the familial set up is designed to put men on the pedestal and it all is rooted in religion. As long as religion forms the core of the legislation and how we conduct ourselves in public and private spaces, things will not change. Continue to blame the tool, (man and misogyny) because that is necessary and take measures to deal with it but also blame the argument (religion and how it supports that men are superior, women are subservient etc) that feeds that tool. Unless we are brave enough to address that, things will remain the same.

Apr 28, 2013 - PPP, PTI, Punjab, religion, terrorism    2 Comments

NOT the victims of a drone attack

This is a request to those who are free to conduct election campaign for their political parties before the country goes to poll on May 11 2013. Most of you are lamenting the drone attacks on Pakistani soil and vow to change the situation as soon as you assume power. Some of you are outright Taliban sympathizers and believe that a dialogue with them would yield desired results. A few of you have openly associated with terrorist outfits and have even sought their blessing before the elections. Even though it pains me to see you succumb to them, I wont criticize your diplomacy because a country like this indeed ask for the survival of the fittest and pragmatism demands that you maintain cordial relations with those obscurantist forces if you want to survive.

However, I would request you guys – the leaders of the political parties who are not under attack and are free to run their election campaigns – to take a few minutes out during the many jalsas and corner meetings that you address and show some empathy with the Pakistanis who are under attack from Taliban. They might not have been victims of a drone attack but they too have lost their loved ones, livelihoods and limbs in similarly gruesome acts of violence. The tragedy is that they are attacked by their countrymen hence rhetoric against their killers may not win you votes, television slot and space in international media. You might also be afraid of the Taliban and wonder that if you voice grievance against their ways, you may join these parties who are under attack. Your reluctance makes sense in the short run but what if they come after you once they get rid of these heathens? Fear that future when you may need help but there won’t be anyone left to stand beside you.

Think about your countrymen who may or may not vote for you and have an ideology which is different from yours but they are a part of this country that you call home and they contribute to its society and economy as much as you do, if not more. They need your support to survive right now, who knows they might end up voting for you in future elections if they manage to stay alive. Think about them, because if they perish, you may not even get to enjoy the election process in future.

Regards,

A concerned citizen

 

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These children have lost their father on a bomb attack on MQM’s election office in Bufferzone Karachi. – Photo taken from Twitter TL

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Another kid mourning the loss of his father after attacks on MQM election offices. Photo – AFP

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A victim of bomb attack on ANP’s election office in Orangi Town, Karachi. Photo – AP

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Another family has lost a loved one after the Orangi Town attack on ANP’s election office. Photo – AP

 

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A young victim of terrorist attack in Abbas Town last month – Photo credit AP

 

Residents stand among rubble and debris at the site of April 24th bomb attack in Quetta, the blast was one of the series of attack on Hazara Community. Photo – Reuters

PS: There are far more gruesome photographs of children who have lost their eyes & limbs and dismembered torsos of men who have lost their lives. I did not post those picture because the point here is to invoke empathy for those who are fighting this war against TTP and nothing else.

 

The frivolous and the inane


If someone was handing out awards to legislative assemblies for coming up with the most bizarre legislation and the most frivolous debates, chances are that the Punjab Assembly — the largest legislative house of the country — would win. The house has turned into such a joke of late that one wonders about the ability of most of its members to just be rational, let alone their ability to make laws.
Every other day, members of this supposedly august house are reported in the media about their involvement in verbal spats, at times, on the assembly floor, calling each other name that are so impolite that they often need to be taken off the records of assembly proceedings.  From trying to pass legislation against mobile phone packages to legislation encouraging polygamy and shout fests, from calling names to throwing shoes and chairs at people, members of Punjab assembly have indulged in just about everything – at times repeatedly so.
Instead of taking up issues that adversely affect the performance of the province – such as high number of children outside the schools, the recent young doctor’s strike, increasing unemployment in the province or increase in beggary – the members discuss matter that are irrelevant and can no way be passed as matters of government interest or political debate, legislation or attempts at legislation which is their raison d’être. Latest in the long line of inane debates is discussion over Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s promise to pay Rs 3 million to acid burn victim Rukhsana. Instead of discussing and strengthening laws on domestic violence, acid throwing and police reforms, they decided to go after the film maker who highlighted this issue through her work. It was quite ironic that the motion to ‘help this poor woman’ was moved by Shaikh Alauddin who is quite well known for his misogynyand has harassed his co workers in assembly on camera.
When the members of the assembly do work on issues of importance, they do not do so with the required diligence and care. According to a PILDAT report, it took the provincial assembly only 21 hours and 56 minutes to pass the annual budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 which was around Rs 782 billion. In comparison budget debate 2011-2012 consumed approximately 39 hours. Hence a decline of55% was witnessed this year in the actual time devoted for Budget debate. They pass multiple bills which had been returned to the assembly secretariat from the governor’s office with objections and reservations, without making any changes in the text or the context of the bills. The provincial law minister disregarded the governor’s reservations by saying that the “governor has hired a team of English-writers, who write the same type of objections on every bill.”
Perhaps, the Darwin Award for the most incredible legislation goes to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan who moved a motion to remove the ostrich from the bird category and place it in the same category of animals as goats and sheep, in order to meet the increasing demand for meat in the province. One wonders why the poor birds had to be removed from their rightful place in the animal kingdom; if the reason was to encourage people to eat them, they could have done it without the hyperbole of legislation. After all we, as a nation, eat poultry like there is no tomorrow.
Going by the performance of this house, the election commission should be advised to start testing candidates on basic IQ tests before approving their nomination papers for the next elections. Who knows, the next assembly might want to declare elephants as fish.
Originally written for The Express Tribune
Jul 19, 2012 - Punjab, Punjab Assembly    7 Comments

The absolute mindfuckery of Punjab Assembly

Earlier today, my faith is restored in the absolute mindfuckery of a premier legislative institution called Punjab Assembly. The Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah decided to go all Charles Darwin on its electorate and presented a bill which declares that an ostrich is no longer a bird but an animal. More mind boggling is the fact that Punjab assembly decided to play God and passed the bill declaring all the ostriches in Punjab to be animals. Now that the ostriches have been declared animals, I am wondering how Rana Sanaullah will coax them into giving birth to tiny little baby ostriches instead of laying eggs like they used to when they were birds. If they continue to lay eggs, would the ostriches be breaking the law by acting like birds when they are declared animals by legislation? Would they be persecuted for breaking the law? Would that crime be punishable by law? Would Azad Adliya take a stand on upholding the law or would it bow down to animal rights activists? I am assuming ostriches in other provinces of the country will remain birds and would be allowed to act as birds which will probably generate some kind of identity crisis and inferiority complex among the ostriches living under the rule of Rana Sanaullah.
I have a feeling that Rana Sanaullah must have had some ostrich meat delicacy during his several trips abroad. He sensed that a market can be created for it so have decided to farm the animal in Pakistan. Tragedy was that as long as they remain the bird, ostriches were protected by the section- 14 of the Punjab Wildlife (Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management) Act, 1974. Now that Rana Sb has amended the law – against the advisement of the governor and opposition members – to suit his business interests, the only thing that can save the Ostriches in Punjab from the slaughterhouses, is cross province migration.  
Maybe Rana Sanaullah just wants to ride one?

This all pervasive misogyny



Every country has its fair share of misogynist politicians trying to tell women not to drive or have abortions, wear or not to wear burqa or contest elections, but Pakistan beats them all with the likes of Sheikh Alauddin who not only is openly misogynist, he is also ill mannered enough to call his colleagues – female members of Punjab Assembly – all kinds of names, names so impolite that not only some of the TV channels refused to air his tirade against women MPAs before censoring it, but the speaker of the assembly also had to get those nasty bits removed from the records. 
Women MPAs protested against his spiel about the non virtuous nature of his female colleagues, but when he refused to stop, Seemal Kamran, an MPA Pakistan Muslim League-Q threw a shoe at Alauddin and all hell broke loose. Ms. Kamran was barred from entering the assembly premises by the Speaker next day, was involved in a skirmish with the security guards and when she later tried to file an FIR against Sheikh Alauddin for harassment and misconduct at workplace, she was told that an FIR can only be filed against an MPA after directions from the speaker of the assembly.
It is sad to realize that misogyny is seeped so deep in our society that a woman as powerful as one sitting in the assembly cannot file a report against a co worker for workplace misconduct and harassment despite video evidence. It is so ironic that a place that is supposed to make laws for workplace harassment houses some of the worst offenders who have no qualms in calling their colleagues circus whores (the exact words of Sheikh Alauddin were maut ke kuwo-on mein nachnay wali aurtain among other things).
While some TV channels showed restrain and did not air the abusive language of Shaikh Alauddin, some other TV channels aired selective footage where Seemal Kamran threw a shoe at him but aired it with sensational copy and did not show the abusive and misogynist behavior and speaker’s lack of response which prompted that incident. People who have witnessed the assembly proceedings say that Kamran’s response may seem a little over the top but the women in Punjab assembly are only returning the favour after putting up with four years of verbal & physical abuse during assembly sessions. No wonder legislation against misogynist practices, domestic violence runs into snags repeatedly because our assemblies are full of people who consider misogyny a way of life.
It is also to be noted that Shiekh Alauddin’s rant against women MPAs has openly mocked the constitutional provision of reserved seats for women by calling them the group that violates the sanctity of the house. Election commission of Pakistan should take notice of this at soonest of it wants its authority as the supreme body for electoral process to be respected. 
Women rights groups demands action against Member Punjab Assembly, Sheikh Allauddin for using abusive language for women members of the house on 20th June 2012 which of course is an appropriate demand, but it is not just the action of one man, the incident represented a mindset that cannot accept women either in public spaces or in a position of power. We must condemn people like Alauddin for their reprehensible behavior but the society in general and women’s groups in particular need to look for ways to redress the way we view women in public spaces and positions of power and deal with this all pervasive misogyny. 
Originally written for  The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version.
Mar 9, 2012 - Punjab    16 Comments

Imran Khan running away from Awami Tsunami?

If anyone is handing out awards for writing the most refreshingly hilarious news copy without even trying, this Dunya Tv report is the top contender for it. 
Imran Khan went to attend a political rally in Kala Shah Kaku last month and true to his elitist roots, got flustered with awami love. He first pushed an over exuberant fan, then scolded his party leaders for the ruckus and then jumped off the stage when that love and affection got too much for him. When asked why he jumped off the stage, Imran Khan quipped with “Abhi tau main Jawan hoon. ”
Looks like Tsunami Khan is not too enamored with Awami Tsunami, but what awami leader wants to run away from awami junoon?



PS: You gotta know Urdu/Hindi  to enjoy the clip to the max
PPS: PTI workers looked extremely happy eating stolen oranges. 
Oct 7, 2011 - Punjab    15 Comments

And the propaganda lives on

Who said propaganda died with Dr Goebbels?
This is one picture that is doing rounds on social networking websites these days. The premise of the photograph  is that Mian Nawaz Shareef is meeting Dengue victims with a mask on his face while Imran Khan – the sher jawan of Pakistan (at 59 with wrinkles to match those on Mick Jagger’s face, he is anything but sher jawan) is this fearless man who is meeting common people without security or either the armoured guards or a mask. 
Now we all know that Mian sahib is not the most awami leader in Pakistan but then we are all in the know that Khan Sahib too does not suffer aam janta or dissenting voice all that gladly. Looks like Pujnab will be the fiercest battle ground in next elections. The establishment’s PR machinery is hard at work in establishing Imran Khan as the messiah who will deliver; no one seems to care as to what will be delivered by the erstwhile Kaptaan at this point in time.

Polygamy for the greater good

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There is an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Whenever I read it, I always think that it must have been coined keeping Pakistan or Pakistan like situation in mind.
Last year with repeated shoe throwing incidents at Ghulam Arbab Rahim, former Chief Minister of Sind, I gave the verdict that Sind Assembly is the lamest legislation house in Pakistan where people indulge in brawling at no provocation. The image took a further nosedive when MQM MPAs in the assembly expressed grief by commemorating a moment of silence at the death of Michael Jackson. I mean we all loved good ol’ MJ and I am sure Mr. Faisal Sabzwari must have grooved to ‘Thriller’ in his younger days, but I was kinda lost and failed to make the connection between Sind Assembly and MJ. But of late, Punjab Assembly has dethroned Sind Assembly as the legislative body where all the moronic, dense and dim witted good for nothing publicity whores gather and talk nonsense at the tax payers’ expense.
A few weeks back, a PML – Q MPA, Ms. Samina Khawer Hayat has decided to straighten the youth of Pakistan by proposing a bill on putting a ban on all the late night cell phone packages across Punjab. According to her, the young boys and girls are wasting their time chatting and texting with each other which is not only bad for their academic grades but is also deemed un-Islamic. She blamed the cell phone companies for the moral degradation of youth by keeping the phone charges so affordable. The best way to deal with the issue was to keep the cell phone charges out of purchasing power of the younger Pakistanis. Needless to say, Ms. Hayat got prime time coverage and was interviewed by many news channels with nothing better on their agendas. A day before the bill was proposed, no one apart from Ms. Hayat’s three children knew or cared about her and all of a sudden, she became the woman who would affect not only millions of young and not so young Pakistanis who call their friends and family late at night, but also the profit margins of perhaps the only successful and commercially viable sector in Pakistan.
Now, Ms. Hayat had tasted blood and she was like this vampire who needed a constant fix to feed into her yearning for more fame, prime time TV spots and front page newspaper headlines. The next thing we knew, she totally hijacked the bill proposed by her colleague Sheikh Allauddin, when she came out and said that men can and should marry a second, a third and a fourth time without the consent of their first wife. While presenting her precious views in favour of polygamy, Ms. Hayat said:

“If there is no bar on them marrying again, all of men’s frustrations would be reduced, while women would be able to salvage their honour and lead secure lives.”

Now call me extremely thick , but if all these men are already married to super women like Ms. Hayat herself, then why in the God’s name are they still so bloody frustrated? Secondly, if there are so many single unmarried women around, why are they not frustrated? Is sexual frustration a male domain only? Are all unmarried women without honour which they can only salvage or reclaim after becoming someone’s second, third or fourth wife? What kind of society have we become where the only course of security for a single woman is to become someone‘s second, third or fourth wife. I guess in Ms. Hayat’s esteemed opinion, the state that has repeatedly failed to provide security to its female population can only go forward by promoting some seriously misogynist legislation.
Like I mentioned earlier, Punjab Assembly has managed to congregate all the idiots par excellence so most treasury members endorsed Hayat’s demand and appreciated her ‘bold’ stance on the issue. Sheikh Allaudin and Maulana Ilyas Chinnioti and Amina Buttar termed her suggestion “ideal”. I was not present there but I am sure that Maulana Chinioti must have been salivating when he said that Hayat had ‘voiced the wishes of Muslim women’.
While there are people who are hoping that Samina Khawar Hayat’s husband marry three more women without her permission ASAP and some are envious of her husband as she has so generously bestowed her husband with the permission to seek wife number 2, 3 & 4, I will only share her contact details.
Those of you who either want to praise Ms. Samina Khawar Hayat or call her names can do so by texting or calling at her cell number 0300-8030786. This is my public service of the day.


I don’t know about the others, but we are seriously living the Chinese curse.

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