Tag Archives: Struggle

Hashtnagar – a land, forgotten

Ammar Aziz, is a Lahore based film-maker, writer and a left-Wing activist. His article raises extremely important issues in this narrative. We wih to revive the debates on peasantry struggles and Ammar’s exclusive post for PTH is more than welcome. We hope that there will be a robust discussion on the issues raised here. Raza Rumi

My film thesis research has recently made me visit a piece of land that, despite its significant historical importance , has been brutally ignored in the pages of history. Surrounded by Afghan border, conservative feudal culture and tribal areas that have been in media attention in the recent past due to Taliban, that area is none other then Hashtnagar which stands as its own example in the history of class struggle in Pakistan . Consisting of a cluster of eight villages, Hashtnagar is  one of the two divisions of Charsadah district in Pakhtoon Khawah (NWFP) and is one of the province’s most fertile lands known for its sugar cane production. The element of militant armed Socialist struggle differentiates Hashtnagar from the rest of the leftist movements in Pakistan.

Weaving red flags at the roof tops, Socialist symbols painted on the walls, portraits of revolutionary figures, left wing cultural activism and, above all, the daily life of the  peasants and workers reflect the liberation that can be felt in the whole ambiance of the area. This liberation is the outcome of the socialist struggle of many decades that has played an important role in shaping the lives and minds of the native people.

To understand this revolutionary change, it is important to have a brief overview of the history of peasant’s struggle in NWFP Continue reading


Filed under Left, Marxism, movements, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, Society

Into the Mirror – Mukhtaran Mai

EXCERPT: House Of Women

The book explores tribal traditions and lifestyles in Pakistan and tries to reconstruct both sides of the story to unearth the truth behind the alleged gang-rape of a Pakistani village woman.

November 2005, Mirwala

‘She was his bride!’ the old widow hollers in autumn sunshine, surrounded by rag-clothed grandchildren.

Gold studding her bulbous nose, the matriarch of the house where Mukhtar says she was assaulted rocks, sobs, and pulls on the tattered corners of a thin purple floral shawl pyramiding her face, and wipes her raging tears.

‘We never took their girl! They are telling lies to you and everyone! To take a girl and do such things to her does not exist in Islam. Muslims and Islam know no activity like this.’

Taj Mai Mastoi, somewhere in her 60s, cries on a charpoy in her dust-blown courtyard.

‘No-one realises we also are Muslims!’

She clutches her knee to her chin between outbursts of spitting rage.

‘There was no rape!’ she fires. ‘There was not even a panchayat! She came as a bride.’ Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Books, sex, violence, Women

Chador aur Char Divari: Subverting the discourse of exclusion 6

In this article, our prolific contributor Shaheryar Ali looks at the invisibility of women in extreme interpretations of Islam that were adopted by the General Zia-ul-Haq and that refuse to go away despite decades of struggle. He cites a powerful poem by the Urdu poet Fahmida Riaz that sums up the perversity of this peculiar mindset and is a bitter song of liberation too. (Ed: RR)

Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse — prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth ———” Foucault

The non-existence of women is the most important problem that has plagued the discourse in the Muslim countries. “Representational discourse” is in itself a discourse of exclusion, the “woman” and “woman hood” are representational entities, the Woman has always been be represented in the discourse , she never had her own voice. The famous existential philosopher Simone de Beauvior whilst writing her seminal feminist work “The second Sex” reached the conclusion : “No Human is born a Woman”.

In fundamentalist ‘Islamic’ context this representational discourse acquired a legal status where woman was judged to be unworthy of testimony. De-humanization of woman reached its peak under the USA sponsored Islamization of the Muslim world. General Muhammed Zia ul Haq and the theologians brought the “Law of Evidence” according to which the testimony of the woman was to be considered half of that of man. The traditional reading of Islam brought about the concept of “Naqis ul Aqal” “semi compos mentis” for the Woman. An animal which is not capable of making independent decisions, is source of Sin and lust and hence must be covered in a black veil, to protect the piety of Men, whose place is within the 4 walls of the house and who cant leave it without a male relative escorting her.

“Zina” (or fornication) became the ultimate focus of the project that aimed to suppress women’s sexuality with the fear of stones and lashes. “Chador or Char divari” became the official state doctrine for “woman” with approval from Mansoora! [Pakistan’s self-styled Vatican, headquarter of the Jamate Islami]

The Progressive left led a heroic struggle against the Neo Fascist Zia ul Haq, resulting in one of the most brutal crackdown against them, hangings, torture,murders,exiles, lashes—. Fahmida Riaz , Kishwar Naheed stood up against this tyranny , the result was the emergence of a radical feminist discourse that was modernist and progressive and which challenged the Islamist discourse on woman.

Fehmida Riaz is a true artist who never compromised , she was victimized by Zia ul Haq and his political Son Nawaz Sharif but she stood firm. Chador aur Char Divari is one of the most important poems ever written in Urdu. It traces the origins of Islamist exclusionist discourse and de constructs it. It asserts the “humanity” of woman , her independent will and voice and her challenge to the tyrants. Continue reading


Filed under Citizens, Literature, poetry, Politics, Women

Long March

Pak Tea House’s poet in residence, Kashkin, muses on the long march to Islamabad, they say…. (Raza Rumi)

“Dedicated to all who have contributed in this struggle”

Arrival of a dawn of this new beginning
As the nation march, with prayers and hope
In preparation, the state and its machines
In preparation, the nation and its voice
Brings them together, the old oppression
The muffled rage from years of existence
In the old corridors, in the old avenues
The city of green, the city of conceit
Walk with me, the annals of tomorrow
The only chance to witness your present
Witness this place, where history is made.

Long live the justice, long live those voices
Imprinted and inside, in hands and in souls
No longer the concern where it will take
The old fate, the old destiny and its effect
From years of sleep; from years of its demise
As the clock strikes its decisions on the wall,
In oblivion they reside, in oblivion they perform
The old routines, the old disease of greed
Time to remove, the old despair and stigma
Never will we stop, never will we rest
For our tomorrow, for justice and freedom

Trade we will not, this promise of change
Trade we will not, our conscience and soul
Rise my friends through these moments of time,
Of choices we have and all that remains
As each step gathers a pace, in silence in formation
As each pace gathers a storm, in its existence
The voices of Kurd and voices of suffering
The wakeup call, for our tomorrow
In this hour of decision, what will we do?
Not enough, this participation from the corner
Time to settle, the old matters,
Will you stop me, my brothers and my sisters?
What will you do, it’s only the voice
It’s only the truth, no options left Continue reading

Comments Off on Long March

Filed under Citizens, Democracy, History, Media, Pakistan, poetry, Politics, Society, Writers

The struggle for Islam’s soul: Subverting the discourse of exclusion 4

by Shaheryar Ali

Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse — prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth ———“

“I believe we must resolve ourselves to accept three decisions which our current thinking rather tends to resist, and which belong to the three groups of function I have just mentioned: to question our will to truth; to restore to discourse its character as an event; to abolish the sovereignty of the signifier…. One can straight away distinguish some of the methodological demands they imply. A principle of reversal, first of all…. Next, then, the principle of discontinuity ….”

Michel Foucault

I am planning to do all this , I am trying to bring forward the “prohibited voices”, those which have been totally eclipsed in the society by the dominant discourse. This is not “endorsing” one and rejecting “others”, rather, its simply a act of breathing , an act of subversion ,of saying what is not pleasant to hear, Its simply an act of living in the rotten stagnant conformity.

Due to the overtly political nature of “war on terror”, the Islamism has suffered a qualitative change , it has taken the postmodern shape. The Progressive Islamist circles have in turn become “Post-Islamists”, the result is emergence of a discourse which is reactionary, anti modern and some times overtly racist and fascist.

Islam has nothing to do with violence

Islam needs no re-thinking or change

Its all Jewish conspiracy

Its all America’s fault. Continue reading

Comments Off on The struggle for Islam’s soul: Subverting the discourse of exclusion 4

Filed under Islam, Islamism, Media, minorities, Philosophy, Reviews, Society, Writers

Three Children

Early in the morning with blurred looks,
The only clothes,the hardships and fate
In Sahara, where an ocean meets the desert
Sit three with wooden tablets and verses of Quran
Not much to lose, but enough to learn

As this ice melts when viewed from a distance
The only conversation is the old expression
Of wonder and resolve, as faces emerge
One day we will travel far,
From what we have learnt and seen
See you will not us but only the wall
The old protection, the only support

Travel far to this place, only in existence
What a pain this old desire to learn and to give
Far from our village as we make our way
From routines to remember to the needs of hunger
Work now resumes and different tools
The old skies and African deserts

Sit there these three children
With morning friendship and long references
In African sky and with verses of Quran!


Comments Off on Three Children

Filed under Citizens, Islam, poetry

Aitzaz Gives Call for LAWYERS’ BLACK FLAG WEEK

Lahore: In a statement issued here from his residence, where he is detained, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, President Supreme Court Bar Association, said that a Long March scheduled for March 09 has been postponed to give Parliament time to restore the deposed judges. It has not been cancelled. The lawyers, he said, appreciated the concern of the Parliamentarians and the leadership of the political parties to permit Parliament to meet and take steps for the restoration of the judges in the first instance.

Aitzaz, however, said that two of the most unfortunate days in our history fell in the year 2007. On March 9, none other than the Chief Justice of Pakistan was arrested. On December 27 a much greater and far more enormous tragedy struck. The most important leader of the country Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred. The nation continues to mourn her. Lawyers have decided to commemorate both days with sorrow.

Aitzaz said that presently March 9th to 16th would be commemorated as the BLACK FLAG WEEK in and outside Pakistan. Those opposing Musharraf and seeking the restoration of the deposed judges will fly “Black Flags” through out the week as per the following recommended programme: Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Citizens, Media, movements, Politics