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Glass ceiling and Fanaticism Vs Women

"For most of history, Anonymous was a woman" is a remarkable quote by Virginia Woolf. It remains true even now, although there has been a crack in traditional definitions associated with women’s roles. If we put Pakistan under the microscope, we find huge gender disparities. It stands as the second-worst country in the case of the gender gap, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF). In a patriarchal society, it is hard for women to make their mark in their careers. If they succeed, it is even more difficult to earn a rank and then sustain it. There are numerous examples in the history of Pakistan where women made their mark in varying avenues. If we narrow it down to politics, then there are many brave women who faced derogatory remarks by fellow men but stood their ground. The criteria for these attacks were always personal choices, and their biology was the measure of their performance. Take Fatima Jinnah as an example, who was one of the founding leaders of Pakistan. When she contested against the dictatorial rule of Ayub Khan, heinous attacks were made on her character. Questions were posed as to why she doesn’t marry. Later on, Pakistan had its first-ever female prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who also ricocheted all types of rumours about her.

Going through the course of history, there is also another name for a brave woman: Zil e Huma Usman. She was a bright politician who emerged from Gujranwala. She was a member of the Pakistan Muslim League Q (PML-Q) during Musharraf’s era in 2002. She became a member of the Punjab Assembly in 2002. She was appointed to various important ministries from 2003 to 2006. In 2003, she served as the Parliamentary Secretary for Development and Planning. Later, she was designated the Minister of Social Welfare for Women.

The turning point in her life, and perhaps the end, came in 2007. On February 20, 2007, she was addressing a rally outside an open court. She was welcomed by her party workers at Asghar Ali Road when a religious fanatic named Maulvi Mohammad Sarwer Mughal opened fire on her. The 36-year-old minister, who was the mother of two teenage boys, was shot in the head and received brutal injuries. She was carried immediately to a nearby hospital and later moved to Lahore General Hospital via helicopter, but she couldn’t survive.

The perpetrator was captured and arrested by Ms. Huma’s guards. Reuters reported, quoting Punjab’s Law Minister Raja Basharat, that the criminal was a fanatic. Maulvi Sarwar had no remorse over his horrendous act and claimed that there could be no women rulers in light of Islam. He also said that the minister was not "dressed properly." Maulvi Sarwar had a record as a serial killer of brutally murdering women who, according to him, were not on "the right path." According to the Express Tribune, Sarwar killed four women between 2002 and 2003. He was arrested and later released in 2005, as no one pursued the cases. Eventually, after Huma’s murder, he was arrested and spent his sentence in Kot Lakhput jail. Condemnations were made by then-President General Musharraf and the chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Asma Jahangir.

The killer of Zil e Huma died, but her killer's ideology is still alive and will remain so. The thinking that women are less capable than men and, hence, have no place in the social circle of life The life of a woman is defined by a male patriarch who thinks his women are "his responsibility" and hence does whatever is within his capacity to contain her. From dress code to morals to religious practices, everything is dictated by men who deem themselves well-informed of religious teachings. All such dictation is justified in the name of religion, and the inferiority of a woman is said to be "credited" by scriptures. All such notions have no rational or even religious value, and they only stem from misogyny and religious fanaticism.

Zil e Huma died defying and challenging all such stereotypes, and her death ignited women to not lose hope. This can be observed in numerous sections of social life ranging from sports, academia, and professional careers. Pakistani women are raising their voices, and they are trying hard to make them heard. They are not just shouting but working diligently to break the glass ceiling. Where a large section of society is occupied by men, women are making their spaces for themselves irrespective of the nerve-racking criticism of a male-dominated society. In a world where a man’s success is credited to his hard work, a woman is character assassinated and labelled as using some "shortcut." Nevertheless, women are rising up against such gruesome comments.


Recent developments have been encouraging as Pakistan has seen many women making their mark. In the realm of sports, Nida Dar became the lead wicket-taker in T-20. On Saturday, May 25, the elections for the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) took place. The results were groundbreaking, as for the first time a woman, Sabahat Rizvi, became the secretary of the LHCBA after giving fierce competition to her two male rivals. Another precedent was set when Rabbiya Bajwa was elected as the vice president, marking a prominent recognition of women in the Bar Association. There had been a slow but steady inclusion in January 2022, when Justice Ayesha Malik became the first woman to be appointed as a Supreme Court judge. All these women vow to include more female representation in the legal profession and to do justice with their ranks.

These recent news stories have left Pakistani women joyous, and a breath of fresh air is being felt in the professional careers dominated by men. It imbues courage in other women to pursue their passion and become part of the system that rules all. This is the need of the hour, as no nation can progress without uplifting its women. This is crucial as 49% of Pakistan’s population is made up of women, and female representation in all walks of life is necessary to address their concerns. Unfortunately, women have to fight multiple battles of family discouragement, social behavior, religious fanaticism, and harassment. Regardless of this, Pakistani women are supporting each other to reach their goals, and a time will come to balance out the inequality thrown upon them by the patriarchal setup.



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