Security: The traditional definitions of the word security includes: 'secure state of feeling, safety, stability, protection:
Off course, when looking for the meaning of it in the lives of Pakistani women, the context is of great importance. Security is not being able to go outside the house without a chaperon. If we are allowed to go out without a chaperon, we will be stared at so bad, we feel guilty of leaving the house alone! This is not what 'respectable' women do in Pakistani society ad if they do, they will get stares, raised eye-brows or even touched inappropriately in public.
This calls for women to not leave home. But are they safe in their homes. I wrote a very elaborate piece about the security of women in the sanctity of their homes in my feature: Can legal reforms protect women in Pakistan? An insight into the new domestic violence bill of Pakistan and its implications. Honour killing is a practice which has allowed male family members to kill their sisters, wives, daughters or any female relatives in the name of honour and the men even manage to get away as the cultural norms consider it honourable!
Another security perspective is that which is affecting the whole of Pakistan as a country. In January this year, Governor Salman Taseer was killed after he decided to defend the rights of a peasant woman who was allegedly accused of blasphemy, a crime which can lead to capital punishment. The leader was killed by his own body guard who got inspired by clerics promoting hate philosophies to their followers. Following that event, activists and politicians who were working to fight religious extremism were told to change their security guards. There was a thick air of mistrust and fear from the supporting staff people had in their offices and homes. Last month, a female activist from the capital city Islamabad, who was a strong supporter of Late Salman Taseer caught her security guards eavesdropping at her office door.
For me, security is all of the above, I want to be free to go outside the house and feel free and not under strict male surveillance. I want to be safe in my house, and free of fear that if I do anything that is unacceptable to the men in the house, I will be beaten, abused, mentally tortured or even killed. I want to be free to express my opinions and not have the constant fear of being threatened if I go against the extremist religious mindset of my country.
Lack of accountability: In my life, it means that every department I go to, the functioning of that government body is inefficient due to lack of accountability, be it the Electricity department* or any other institute. Our leaders are corrupt because of lack of accountability. Pakistan is now developing the culture of monitoring what our leaders are doing, but it still has a long way to go because we even lack the skills to monitor it. Pakistan has a vibrant media that is effortlessly trying to unfold stories that were kept hidden but they also need serious capacity building in ethics, responsible behavior and national security.
Transparency Transparency seems non-existent in most of the the government offices even though there have been claims to combat that. Unemployment rate is also high because most people who deserve to get jobs based on their qualifications do not manage to get it. The hiring authorities prefer to hire people they know or people who bribes them to get the job. This has taken a great toll on the lives of the young talented people who have no strong references or money to pay 'gift money.'
Fairness and Social Justice:
Fairness and social justice to me are closely related. fairness can lead to social justice which is the key to a prosperous society. In Pakistan, I have observed that wealthy people can get away with everything, be it violation of traffic lights or even murders. On the other hands, disadvantaged people have seen to get into trouble for the crimes they have not committed. Most of the blasphemy law victims** are people from disadvantaged backgrounds. For me, social justice is the equal treatment of men and women irrespective of their social status, colour, creed or ethnicity.
Corruption: As a women I am deeply disturbed by the stories of moral corruption men exhibit against women. Women workers, be it at home (domestic workers) office or parliament are harassed and black mailed into complying with the sexual desires of men. If the women fail to comply it can lead to serious implications in their professional and personal lives. Workplaces for women are not safe and the foremost cause of it is the economic burdens on these women, which are taken advantage of.Therefore, instead of reporting these issues, most women give in and continue to suffer in silence.
We are a society that live under constant threat of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks. Our people, leaders, markets, bus stations, security agency deployments, parliament, nothing is safe or immune from them. Despite that, I am amazed at the extra ordinary strength of our people, especially women. The source of the courage is the natural desire to keep on living in my opinion. But still people do not stop from going shopping or to the airports. They still continue to live their lives.
I have also developed a sympathy towards the countless youth of the security forces who are under also under constant threat and continue to perform their duties and risk their lives for their country. I am in no favor of war, I do feel that these security and law enforcing personnel have families, possibly wives and children as well. May peace prevail in this region soon, and we stop seeing violence and bloodshed on our television screens and roads soon.
*Pakistan is suffering from severe energy crisis with power cuts ranging from six to twelve hours in cities. The situation is worse in the country side.
**Please refer to my frontline journal: Strength in challenging times: Women stemming the tide of intolerance