ASR Institute of Women’s Studies, Lahore is not a run of the mill NGO or a donor-sponsored institution. Pakistan, not unlike other developing countries has enough of such makeshift, quick-fix research institutions that advance the Eurocentric and inappropriate agendas of those who want to liberate and enable the natives to come at par with the ‘civilized’ world. Since 1983, ASR has held its own – under dictatorships, quasi-democratic charades and amid the rise of Islamism. Not content with radical research and speaking the truth, in 1997 ASR went ahead and set up the first women’s studies institute in the non-state domain. This institute is open for South Asians and boasts a curriculum and faculty that would compete with any similar outfit in the international arena.
In February 2010, ASR organized a national seminar entitled A Celebration Of The Women’s Movement 1947-2010. The seminar honoured women who have struggled for women rights, and especially to pay tribute to the valiant struggle of the women of Pakistan who have consistently challenged all forms of oppression since 1947. This occasion also paid tribute to the women of Lahore and the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) who resisted the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq on the 12th of February 1983. This historic day will always be remembered as a shining moment in our troubled history, when a few women faced large contingents of brutal police and marched their way through lathi charges and tear gas to protest against the anti-women, dubious ‘Islamization’ under Martial Law.
The sad part is that the process that was unleashed by the Ziaist mock-theocracy has turned into a national disaster. The rise of the Taliban and other Wahabi-Salafist groups are a danger not only to women and minorities, but also spell doom for the future of a plural Pakistani society. In this milieu, ASR’s bold stance and unwavering commitment to an equitable, progressive Pakistan is therefore heartwarming. At the same time, ASR is also facing existential crises that concern its basic survival. Continue reading