Imran’s misogyny targets Afghan women

Imran’s misogyny targets Afghan women

A passing, but well-considered, remark by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan at the just-concluded conference of OIC members yet again  underscores the fact that his western liberal education and years of playing cricket in Britain does not hide his misogyny.

Observers of the Western governments who attended the meeting could not have missed his remark that “not educating girls is part of Afghan culture”.

He has been trolled at home and abroad, especially by the Afghans for whom he claims to speak. It is likely that some of the foreign ministers of Islamic nations who represent more enlightened and evolved societies, would have found his remark unacceptable.

 The silence of the Westerners, although unacceptable, would at best be diplomatic. Khan is unlikely to have enlightened them, or altered their assessment of what is happening in Afghanistan.

Very likely, they would recall that Imran Khan was called “Taleban Khan” even by former military dictator Pervez Musharraf. The home-grown general held relatively liberal views, although he had hoodwinked the world community, especially the United States, into thinking that he was fighting their “war on terror”. 

Khan’s latest observation is to cushion the new rulers in Kabul who are under pressure from the world community that wants them to form an inclusive government that must include women and ethnic minorities that together form nearly half the Afghan population.

Used to being criticized for his views on Pakistani women as well, Khan may well wear the “Taleban Khan” label on his shirt-sleeves from the way he is promoting the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that Pakistan has assiduously supported and facilitated for over 25 years now.

 He wants the world community to lift the Afghans from the misery and “humanitarian catastrophe” that has hastened since the Taliban returned to power. But neither Khan, nor Taliban want to do anything in return – not even view their own people in a more humane manner and help them to catch up with the modern times.

Surely, he gladdened the hearts of the Afghan delegation led by Acting foreign Minister Ameer Khan Muttaqi, who is a die-hard old guard talib, founder of the movement that had forbidden women to even look out of their home windows, leave alone leaving that home to study and to work.

Unless he is ignorant to boot, Khan would know that women studied and worked in Afghanistan. They went to schools and colleges around the same time Pakistan’s own women studied and worked. The Afghan women would join their men in following election campaign over the radio and vote in the 1960s, to elect Jirgas at various levels, when Pakistan was experimenting then President Ayub Khan’s “basic democracy” – an apology for a government guided by the military and their civilian cohorts.

If only nationhood and not the high-sounding democracy, is the benchmark, the Afghans have stayed a single entity through over four decades of turmoil, no matter who rules. This is unlike Pakistan that lost an entire province when a majority of its population separated 50 years ago. 

When he justifies keeping hapless Afghan women indoors, Khan ostensibly wants to see Afghan society to become a mirror image of Pakistan that, despite democratic pretensions, does the same to its women, or misogynists like him would like to see. Such elements in both countries would like to see their women remain backward.

Since no society can progress and develop without women’s participation, is it that Pakistan under Khan wants to ensure that Afghanistan remains a vassal state of poor and backward socially and culturally and as a landlocked nation, economically dependent on it? 

The netizen, whoever took note of Khan, attacked him. A Twitter user called him “uneducated”. Another user said his was a “ridiculously ignorant statement”. 

The critics have joined former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who questioned Khan’s right to speak for the Afghan people. They disapprove of identifying the Afghans with the Taliban.

Despite his diplomatic protestations, Imran Khan views Afghanistan as perennially poor and abjectly dependent. Watch his words: “Every society’s idea of human rights and women rights are different. If we are not sensitive to cultural norms of these people, even with stipends people in Afghanistan won’t send their girls to school. If we are sensitive to their cultural norm, without stipends they will send their girls to school. When we are talking about human rights and women rights, we have to be sensitive about this.”

In saying this, Khan played to the domestic gallery where his government is desperately engaged in striking a peace deal with militant groups, including TTP and TLP, both of whom have been responsible for killing thousands of innocent civilians and suppressing women.

 Unsurprisingly, he has received support and praise from sections of Pakistanis for hosting OIC and for putting “Pakistan first” and “Islam first”. Dawn newspaper in its editorial (December 21, 2021) has praised the ‘optics’ of the “high profile” diplomatic effort that allowed Pakistan a platform to make its presence in the region and among the Muslim nations, while ensuring participation of the P5 countries and other relevant multilateral organisations.

However, the OIC and others, while appreciating the need for ameliorating the misery of the Afghan people, remained unmoved in real terms.  Besides agreeing to establish a Humanitarian Trust Fund and Food Security Programme, nothing concrete emerged from the conference.

Specifically, no participant loosened the purse-string.  “There were some expectations that if nothing else, the member countries would make financial pledges for Afghanistan. This has not happened except Saudi Arabia’s announcing that it would give $265m for Afghanistan and Pakistan has already said earlier that it would donate $30m, the newspaper said, lamenting that “The OIC has over the years built up a reputation that has not inspired too much confidence.”

The commitment of USD 30 million, when Pakistan is itself seeking loans from the IMF and other bodies to keep its economy afloat is a PR exercise meant to humour the OIC and in particular, the Saudi royalty that is sensitive to anything it views as lack of support and loyalty.

The bottom line is that even the OIC that seeks to speak for 53 Muslim nations is ready to take any concrete measure that would push the organisation and its members towards endorsing the Taliban, leave alone granting them diplomatic recognition as a legitimate government – whether or not they approve of the continued designation of most of the members of the Kabul government as ‘terrorists’. (Ends)

Our Correspondent

Our Correspondent

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