… TO PEACE
In 1985 I denounced wearing colour. An unpredictable journey of self-discovery began. Wearing white cotton for the next twelve years erased all influences of the past. Upon that blank canvas the woman I actually was or could become began to manifest…a woman without the need to impress or seek the approval of a society I preferred to distance myself from.
My blunt autobiography, which interestingly coined the expression, Feudal Lord, was published in 1991. Because of my proximity to the diverse aspects of the experience, ‘My Feudal Lord’ was perhaps the most authentic insight into the archaic feudal attitude that has dominated the political configuration in Pakistan since its inception. Although writing it succeeded in reconciling my faith in Islam with my ardent belief in the paramount principles laid down for Muslim women, there was a heavy price to pay for the human ‘freedom’ my religion granted me. Both my maternal and paternal families disowned my five children and myself for thirteen long years. The punishment confirmed that whilst the nature of the book, might have been one of the pioneering efforts to demolish the silence of Muslim women since the 14th century even in the twenty-first century ‘My Feudal Lord’ was a book before it’s time. From which fact it is evident that every time a Muslim woman will dare to cross the line of fear to claim ‘liberty’, it will be at the high expense of losing and hurting the people she loves. But that is a common consequence of all rebellions, revolts and revolutions that attempt to break the status quo. ‘My Feudal Lord’ was translated in 39 languages and became an International Bestseller.
Writing, however, was not enough to break the genetic grip of silence upon my soul; it needed numerous ways to convey that as it had awakened it was free. With ‘feelings’ to compensate for what I lacked in technique and training, I spoke out in the language of art. Whereas almost everyone who ‘understood’ art discouraged and frightened me with the ruthless opinions of art critics who were sure to trash my work, I was not looking for an endorsement…I was on a mission to conquer that very fear.
My first exhibit, ‘Catharsis’, was held in 1992 at Nairang Gallery Lahore. It depicted thirty-five shrouded female forms, buried deep in a genetic memory that programmed women to live in fear and shame, becoming a perpetual liability…even to themselves.
One of those paintings is the cover of my third book ‘Blasphemy’.
When drawing rooms began to resonate with fiery discussions on governmental corruption, I observed that the mere word, ‘accountability,’ leave alone the demand for it, had no mention on ANY political platform. Nor was the silent majority of Pakistan in a position to make such a preposterous demand from the affluent. As a citizen, I decided to step forward. In 1993 from holding just ‘one’ politician accountable in ‘My Feudal Lord’, I decided to demand the accountability of all public representatives and announced a ‘Jehad’ to create awareness towards the endemic acceptance of criminality. I believed that this malignant disease would terminally contaminate the moral character of the new generation and become the prime threat to Pakistan’s future. The consistent violation of article 62/63 of the 1973 constitution, which forbids, under oath, all public servants from serving their own interests above the people they represent, a crime punishable with disqualification from public service, drove me to observe a ‘hunger strike’ until the people were awakened to their rights. An awareness campaign ensued from that action. Only when the interim Prime Minister, Moin Quraishi, decided to visit and respect the voice of The Citizens of Pakistan, did I end the hunger strike at PIMS hospital on the seventh day. By the year 1995, the process of ‘accountability’ had begun. Today, although accountability is part of the manifesto of every political party, the seeds sowed by consecutive governments are clearly apparent in the new crop of ‘leaders’.
The experience of ‘hunger’ made me turn away from Islamabad. It became clear that those who ruled over our people did not know the issues, therefore they could not know the solutions. I sought out the only man who had spent an entire lifetime in the service of the down trodden…a man who knew first-hand the distance between the people and the state. A man who was qualified to talk about the common man, Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi. The next three years were spent at Edhi Homes in Mithadar, Sorab Goth, and Kharadar, Karachi…I followed Edhi Sahib, catching up with him, who rose at 4am after remaining awake the entire night, personally available as an emergency service to the people of Pakistan, without a day’s holiday in his entire lifetime. While I tied coffins to abandoned babies, stepped over corpses, and drove with him in a ‘peoples’ ambulance, I recorded the thoughts, inspirations, motives, observations, views and works of Pakistan’s most revered and renowned social reformer. The nspirational story of an exemplary life through which Abdul Sattar Edhi, as a teenager had decided to interpret the Holy Quran with the way he lived his life was a goal that would traverse a lifetime. In 1994, ‘A Mirror to the Blind’, Mr. Edhi’s official ‘narrated’ autobiography, was endorsed and published by the Edhi Foundation. It was launched on the roadside…Edhi style. I consider this to be the most important work I will ever do in my lifetime.
Diverse but consistent in exposing the prevalent, social, religious and political contradictions that had ‘defaced’ Jinnah’s Pakistan, in the year 1998, I published ‘Blasphemy’, a novel inspired by a true story, a commentary on an entrenched and deeply established order completely contrary to Islam. The story exposed a religious mafia exempt from the law of the land, and drew out the image-makers at the head of a wide-spread cult masquerading in the garb of the great religion of Islam. For me a distortion of the message delivered to the Muslim people in The Holy Quran, through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), better translated the crime of Blasphemy than any other isolated incident that has so far been publicized; which is why the title emphasizes the factual meaning of the crime, as well as the perpetrators of that crime.
It was at this time, after twelve years, that I returned to wearing colour. As the author of a book on the distortion of our religion I did not ‘have’ to look like a sage but a woman of contemporary times.
The period of ‘erasing’ had passed.
In 2001, I launched The Movement, ‘Ana Hadjra Labaek’, at the Future Show 3001 in Bologna Italy. Indeed, at that time it was futuristic to believe that women empowered with an Islamic symbol as proof of their Islamic rights, could move towards a peaceful transition to Islam’s ‘Original Intention’ through Ijtehad. However, three months later, after the tragedy of 9/11, for me The Movement had commenced. The Holy Quran became a best seller. The crisis of Muslim identity came to the forefront. The toxins from a closed subject were released. The fashion of Fatwa’s was over. As all historical change is intrinsic with chaos and anarchy, the rampant aftermath of this transition needed to pass before Ana Hadjra Labaek’s time to rise arrived. In 2013 it has.
In the year 2002 I faced an ‘acid’ test for my commitment to ‘Ana Hadjra Labaek’. I stood up to demand the right of identity for two ‘dispensable’ Citizens of Pakistan, Fakhra Yunas, a dancing girl from Napier road Karachi, a victim of ‘Acid Terrorism’ and her five year old son Nauman. The only sanctuary I could provide them was my own home, where my children, my staff and I were terrorized with life threats and acid, while I confronted the criminals and fought the ‘laws’ of an ‘unlawful’ military government alone. Finally after five grueling months, with the support of the Urdu print media and the public pressure it ignited, the government issued their identification papers for travel. In Rome, Fakhra Yunas underwent 30 major surgeries in nine years at the expense of the Italian Government. In 2012, she succumbed to the excruciating agony of her existence and committed suicide. I received her coffin draped in the Italian and Pakistani flags at Karachi, where Edhi Sahib at Edhi home Kharadar led her funeral prayers. Fakhra’s son Nauman continues to study at school in Rome, and remains under the supervision of an Italian family and myself.
My latest novel, ‘Happy Things in Sorrow Times’, the first part of a sequel, with 34 water-colour illustrations sketched at refugee camps in Kandahar, Turkham and Chaman, ‘disappeared’ with me for over a decade! At last, in 2013, the book is launched. ‘Happy Things in Sorrow Times’ is a story told from the heart of a child, from the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to the present ‘War On Terror’. In the long term, wars are not against soldiers and warriors; they are against children, which verify that there can be no World Peace unless the child of all and any war gets Another Chance on a war footing.
As I said before, many forms of expression are required to break out of the multiple confines that imprison the soul; Writing and Painting are just two of them. For me, this time they intertwined. It was a love affair with the concerns of my heart. In 2016 the exhibit, ‘A Love Affair’ with fifty-five paintings in oil and water colour symbolizing the freedom of the soul from the bondage expressed in ‘Catharsis’, will be launched alongside a coffee table book, with poems and songs with which I ‘actually’ painted the painting.
With a high school degree and without any economic assistance from family or state, I have also raised and educated five children. At the end of this lonely journey, ten years before my father passed away, he forgave me for my transgression. In 2003, after two failed marriages, five children, and some very diverse and unconventional work, with the blessings of my parents, I married Muhammad Shabaz Sharif. It is pertinent to point out that my rebellious ‘past’ was not deterrence for an instinctively progressive man… He married my struggle for Peace. It is my wish that every oppressed person, man, woman and child know that not only did I survive, I prevailed. When I stood up against injustice and oppression as the path prescribed by Islam, I was not defeat able.
May I be an example for all the oppressed of the world.
May each one of you who read My Way To Peace have Another Chance like I did.
[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”4613″ img_size=”” style=”vc_box_border”][vc_column_text]My Mother:
a portrait by Bevan Petman
hangs on my living room wall, as
if erasing her thirteen year long
absence…with a child’s hope that
she will be present forever.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]My Parents
Thank you for Your Forgiveness…
My Late Father Shakirullah Durrani:
knowing he would soon leave the whole
world forever, and not just me for thirteen
years…i could not take my eyes away from
him.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”50px”][vc_single_image image=”4615″ img_size=”” style=”vc_box_border”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]