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Manto’s women

Manto stands more or less alone in the position he takes on women, contends Raza Rumi, in an exploration of Manto’s relationship with his female protagonists

 

Manto2Saadat Hasan Manto

Perhaps the most well-known and also controversial Urdu writer of the twentieth century happens to be Saadat Hasan Manto. He left us with a stupendous literary output, which continues to remain relevant decades after his death. Manto, not unlike other ‘greats’ died young and lived through the greatest upheaval in the Indian subcontinent i.e. the Partition. As a sensitive writer, he was influenced and traumatized by political turmoil during 1947 and beyond. His stories reflect his repeated attempts to come to terms with this cataclysmic event especially for millions in North India. For Manto, partition remained a mystery but he did not keep himself in a state of denial about it. He always used the word ‘batwara’, never partition.i Manto felt that it was the ripping apart of one whole and would lead to greater divisions among the people of the subcontinent. This coming to terms with the ‘batwara’, is experienced in his works by unusual characters driven by plain ambitions, mixed emotions and above all sheer humanity.

Like Nazeer AkabarAbadi, Manto’s characters are universal and often it is difficult to condemn or dislike them since their humanity remains overarching. Manto raised the slogan of humanism at a time when the subcontinent presented the picture of a boiling cauldron of religious riots and protests, of acts of misogyny committed in the name of communal honour and ‘nationalism’. For example, in the story Sahai, Manto writes, “Don’t say that one lakh Hindus and one lakh Muslims have died. Say that two lakh human beings have perished.” Manto uses his characters as metaphors to highlight the prevalent abuse of humanity in those times.

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Pakistan: A transitional polity

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s existentialist crisis is no longer a strictly Pakistani issue. Its potential repercussions have emerged as a cornerstone of global debates on regional stability and international concerns on terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The clichés on Pakistan’s disintegration and meltdown have also been done to death in the international media and policy brigades across the world. Perhaps, what the world has not yet fully comprehended is that Pakistan is essentially a transitional country where the old order is crumbling, giving way to a newer society that is grappling with geostrategic compulsions, domestic violence and a post-colonial state which refuses to realign its structures and priorities to a ‘new’ Pakistan.

To begin with, never in Pakistan’s history have so many women been active in the public spheres: from higher education to the workforce and from subaltern resistance movements to national politics. The two leading public sector universities i.e. the Karachi and Punjab Universities respectively, cater to a majority of female students. It is no coincidence that women parliamentarians are far more active in the national assembly and senate and not even shy of resisting patriarchy and clergy in their public roles. Increasingly, urban Pakistan is shedding its traditional conservatism by creating space for women’s inclusion in the media, and other segments of the services sector (also the largest contributing chunk of the GDP). […]

May 19th, 2011|Personal|5 Comments

Women, pilgrimage and nation building in South Asian Sufism

Came across this interesting abstract of a paper entitled Beyond division: Women, pilgrimage and nation building in South Asian Sufism authored by Pnina Werbner. Can’t wait to read it.
Unlike other religious movements, Sufi orders rarely preach ideologies of either nationalism or religious nationalism. Sufi annual pilgrimages and festivals are open and inclusive: they cut […]

November 12th, 2010|SouthAsia, Sufism, women|3 Comments

Asma Jahangir – A formidable fighter

Fearless and a formidable fighter, Asma Jahangir personifies the struggles Pakistanis have initiated against shameful cultural practices, discriminatory legislation and executive excess. A frail woman has kept the torch of public liberties, freedom and democracy alive for decades. Born on January 27, 1952, in Karachi, Asma Jahangir during the last forty years has become a champion of women, child and minority rights and in many ways the conscience of Pakistan.

A leading Pakistani lawyer and an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Jahangir is most renowned for her role as a human rights activist, a role which has made her confront military dictatorships of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf and the civilian autocrats. In 1972, Asma Jahangir was only 18 when she filed her first petition to have her father — who had been arrested for denouncing the genocide in Bangladesh — released from prison. In a landmark judgment ten years later, she won the case. In fact, the earliest and perhaps the only judgment against a military coup is now attributed to her name. Her resistance to army’s role in politics […]

November 8th, 2010|governance, human rights, Published in the NEWS|4 Comments

First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK

This is such an interesting development. Much as it is preaching to the converted syndrome. But as such scattered reformist acts occur within Islam is a welcome development. Debate and dialogue is important for a dynamic religion such as Islam which has been maligned and stereotyped in this age of corporate media and gross generalisations.

Story and picture from the Independent (By Jerome Taylor): A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam.
Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah at a small prayer session in Oxford.
She has been invited by Dr Taj Hargey, a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam which includes, among other things, that men and women should be allowed to pray together and that female imams should lead mixed congregations in prayer. […]
June 15th, 2010|Islam, Religion|6 Comments

UK Election: Yasmin Qureshi, MP

Yasmin Qureshi, a barrister in the UK, is one of the few Muslim women of Pakistani origin to have entered the British Parliament. Despite the overall inconclusive results of the election, Qureshi’s election is most delightful.

YQ has been an old friend and colleague in the United Nations. […]

May 12th, 2010|Personal, Politics, women|1 Comment

More on Fahmida Riaz

Thanks to Isa Daudpota  who sent me the text and the translated poems after he had heard Kamila Shamsie talk about her..

Fahmida Raiz, who graduated from Sindh University and married in 1965, has published several volumes of poetry. During the Martial Law regime she was editor and publisher of the magazine, Awaaz. In all, fourteen court cases of sedition were filed against the magazine, one of which (under section 114A) carried a death penalty. She escaped to India whilst on bail, with her husband and tow children, where she lived for seven years. She worked as Poet-in-Residence at Jamia Millia, an Indian university, during this period.

She has translated Erich Fromme’s Fear of Freedom and Sheikh Ayaz’s poetry, from Sindhi into Urdu. Since the restoration of democracy she has returned to live in Pakistan and served as Director General of Pakistan’s National Book Council in Islamabad when Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party was in power. […]