Thursday, March 9, 2017

Women in South Asia: United By Harassment

Gurmehar Kaur
If you talk to people from Right-wing parties in Pakistan about Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female Prime Minister, chances are they'll have plenty of stories to tell. Most of these stories will be unflattering — centering on her ‘sex life’ from her time at Oxford or on the ‘half-a-dozen men she's had affairs with’. All Bhutto had done to attract this sort of slander was to challenge Islamist military dictator Zia ul-Haq. And as it is with such smear campaigns, there’s little proof or even a loose link to support the claims.

Indeed women in Pakistan are vulnerable to similar kind of threats and slandering as Gurmehar Kaur witnessed recently in India.

Interview: ‘The war on terror hasn’t affected Urdu writing yet’

Musharraf Ali Farooqi
How did the Partition impact you and your family?
The Partition called into question a whole set of values, and the societal consensus among our elders that we could live together and have a normal relationship with people of another faith; a consensus that Hindus and Muslims and people of other religions had for a long time. Once you unlearn the idea on which you formulated society, many other ideas also fall apart. We are paying the price for that in Pakistan today. Its impact will be felt for decades to come.

Tell us something about your Urdu Project.

The Urdu Project is an online project. It is an effort to build basic resources like dictionaries and a thesaurus for proverbs, dictions and idioms in the Urdu language and linking them with classical texts like Dastaan-e-Amir Hamza or Tilism-e-Hoshruba or classical poetry. Parts of Urdu literature have become inaccessible because we cannot understand the language. If you link each word or phrase with a reference link, then it becomes easier to read the text.

Why do you write in English?

Publishing is not a big, flourishing industry when it comes to Urdu literature. If I wrote in Urdu, I wouldn’t be able to sell many books and write fulltime. Also, when I was reading literature very seriously I didn’t have access to Urdu writers. Most of what I read was in English or was translated into English. A certain structure started forming in my mind and sentences would automatically form in English. So, when I sat down to write, I wrote in English.

How has the war on terror affected Urdu literature in Pakistan?
It has not come up that much in Urdu writings and this is something I mentioned at the Lahore Literary Festival. The Urdu language writers and the English language writers are on different tracks. The former write about the concerns of the society and the latter on what has a niche market in the West. If some are interested in writing about the war, fine, but we must ask why it’s not prevalent in Urdu literature.
This interview was first published in Tehelka

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Women in South Asia: United By Harassment

Gurmehar Kaur
If you talk to people from Right-wing parties in Pakistan about Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's first female Prime Minister, chances are they'll have plenty of stories to tell. Most of these stories will be unflattering — centering on her ‘sex life’ from her time at Oxford or on the ‘half-a-dozen men she's had affairs with’. All Bhutto had done to attract this sort of slander was to challenge Islamist military dictator Zia ul-Haq. And as it is with such smear campaigns, there’s little proof or even a loose link to support the claims.


Indeed women in Pakistan are vulnerable to similar kind of threats and slandering as Gurmehar Kaur witnessed recently in India.

Was Benazir Bhutto a victim of the system?

Benazir Bhutto during the 1986 rally in Lahore
Benazir Bhutto was arguably one of the most powerful people in Pakistan. She was Pakistan’s first woman prime minister and the head of its largest political party gunned down by extremists in 2007.

As the world mourned the fifth anniversary of her death yesterday, we look back at her tremendous journey, the successes and failures.

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