TURN THE OTHER CHEEK? NOT ANYMORE
I’m sure many of you shared the horror I experienced when confronted with the shocking images of Waheeda Shah slapping away at all and sundry, that too, in the presence of both the police and the media. While we all agree that Waheeda Shah committed an overt violation of Human Rights, are we missing something here? Maybe the countless slaps being bestowed on the soft cheeks of hardened children as they fail to serve the mistress bed-tea on time? Or the punch on the face of the overworked maid as she accidentally stumbles and shatters an expensive piece of china? Or even the nightly kick in the leg of the tormented housewife as she says something to offend her husband and in-laws?
This slap-culture is what has bred a generation of Waheedas, impatient and invincible. In a society where a child grows up seeing his father slapping his mother every now and again without any consequences, the lesson learnt by the child is a dangerous one; that it’s acceptable to vent in this manner. And more so, that nobody’s going to object. We can’t, of course, entirely blame the woman for enduring such abuse, for her options are very limited and hardly attractive. But surely some amount of responsibility lies with those women who are in a position to retaliate against such brutal treatment. Thus, while the poor maid can’t do much about her plight, the educated housewife surely can. Similarly, although one can’t expect a child worker to stand up for his rights, we must expect, and encourage, political workers like the ones targeted by Waheeda to stand up and be counted.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, for eventually they, too, are at the mercy of this barbarous feudal class to which the Waheedas of this world belong. That is why it is extremely satisfying to see the Supreme Court rule out her unconditional apology, followed by the Election Commission’s decision to ban her from standing in elections for two years; a veritable slap on the face of thousands like her who consider themselves to be gods incarnated.
However, the buck must not stop here. In a society like Britain where the rule of law prevails, an MP who recently got into a brawl at a bar was not only suspended from the Labour party, but was arrested, held by the police for 24 hours, charged with four counts of assault, and sentenced with a 12 month community order, three month ban from all bars/restaurants, £3000 fine plus compensation to the victims, as well as a four-month curfew, and in his own words, was ‘lucky’ to escape a custodial sentence due to an early guilty plea.
Along the same lines, Waheeda Shah, and the policeman present at the scene, must be sentenced for assault and breach of duty respectively, as an example for the entire irreverent feudal clan gripping our country in their omnipotent claws. Maybe then, a mistress will think twice before punching her bruised maid yet again, or a husband will hold back in fear that a neighbour might hear and complain to the police when the wife he’s been kicking about starts screaming.
For this to happen, a concrete example needs to be presented to the slap-happy Pakistanis. The image of the feeble policeman standing by while the maleficent Waheeda planted another one on the sobbing lady’s cheek, needs to be replaced by an image of an authoritative police officer hauling Waheeda away with cuffs on her almighty hands. Only then would we have set foot on the path to equality.
Published in Dateline Islamabad on 15th March 2012: