Hyderabad Central Jail
I reached Islamabad on 6th October after meeting Veerji Kolhi in Hyderabad Central Jail. Veerji Kolhi is a lawyer, social worker and a fierce human rights activist. He has been a child bonded laborer and after his release became an advocate for human rights releasing hundreds of people from bonded labor and raising issues of women rights violations because of which he became enemy to the violators and they framed him in a murder case putting him in jail. The free spirited Veerji who has given so much to his community has been in jail for the past seven months and has appealed to the high court. The process of dealing with judiciary has already been quite frustrating because of the laid back attitude of almost everyone involved, because one has to beg the people responsible to help Veerji. Its frustrating that such injustice exists. When he was sentenced to life, his wife at that time was expecting a baby boy. When I visited this time, his son Ravi Sagar was recently born and Bhagwati, Veerji’s wife had taken Ravi to his first trip out and that was to Hyderabad Central Jail. In the dark where Veerji is right now, he is still trying to shine by helping fellow prisoners understand legal processes, human rights but its not easy being a fearless, aware, progressive person to create awareness between people who have killed, raped or are totally innocent yet in jail for years. In an environment where, the only relaxation for him is to probably read and write and that too is taken from him after the terrorists have been found in Karachi Jail. After visiting him in jail, I met Veerji’s lawyers and I would write my comments on that meeting once Veerji will be out. Then I spent some time with his wife and three children.
I came back sad because I had found out that the complainant party in Veerji’s case had filed a revision to increase Veerji’s punishment from life imprisonment to death sentence. The complainant party is not financially rich enough to hire a lawyer for almost Rs.0.5 million but it did because the “powerful” people who want Veerji to remain in jail are helping the complainant party make it more tough for Veerji Kolhi. I tried to use all my contacts that I have made through twitter with the influential people who can help in this case. His next hearing was expected on 13th October. I was uncertain but hopeful. One can only take action if one is hopeful.
In the Sky of Pakistan
On my way back in the airplane I had an old woman sitting with me constantly complaining about her knee pain, I was reading “Hope in the Dark” by Rebecca Solnit and wearing my earphones, after realizing that she is wanting to complain to me, I decided I would hear her. I, coming in my yoga teacher character taught her some breathing techniques, told her how moving your body was so important and how she should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and she argued that she couldn’t have water or she would have to visit the toilet again and again and that’s too much a hassle, on food she said in a very unblessed way that “whatever my daughter in laws feed me, I eat it” and that is when her complaining against her daughter in law began saying that she wakes up so late. I really didn’t want to come in the character of an activist but it’s just so natural that I asked her what work did her daughter in law and son do. She told me her son goes to office and her daughter in law wakes up late (8:00 am) and makes breakfast for everyone in the house, then she washes dishes, then she takes three hours in cleaning the whole house and then she cooks lunch and serves them, then she washes the dishes again, cleans the kitchen and goes to her room and sometimes doesn’t respond to us even when I call her. I asked her if she had kids, she said yes just a two year old daughter, I asked her who brings grocery? She said we are very kind to our daughter in law, we allow her to buy grocery herself which made me realize that the daughter in law is a super woman for sure to be doing all house chores and dealing with complaining in laws at the same time. I asked the mother in law how much does the daughter in law get paid for all the work she does? The mother in law laughed and said my son gives her food and shelter and gives me Rs. 10,000 a month, my husband Rs.5,000 a month and his brother Rs. 5000 a month. Meanwhile the airhostess asked her for drinks and she ordered Pepsi, I didn’t even look at her but asked for water for myself and she looked at me and asked for water too. Later I explained her that I work for the rights of women and explained her how she could be kinder in her life, she was otherwise a very sweet woman and heard me and showed me that she understood. I hoped that after this flight she would at least be aware to have more water and may give a warm hug to her daughter in law, which would be nice.
I had only two days in Islamabad to contact all the people for Veerjis case and then go to Parachinar on 9th October. I contacted the people that I had to and called Shahid Kazmi, the person who was not in Parachinar when I had visited it last time during dharna with Mahim Meher, Jibran Nasir and Talha Rehman after a bomb blast that happened there but it was Shahid who had arranged a lot of things for us while being abroad himself. So I contacted him to help me with rent a car for me to visit Parachinar and he told me that he was visiting anyway with his mother and that I could go with him. On my way to Parachinar , I found some amazing things about Shahid’s kind personality , his kindness towards the people around him was unreal. His mother hardly talked to me in the car, but she did ask me if I was married, had kids and I also saw a victory smile on her face when I told her that my husbands name was Alamdar. She seemed like a very religious woman with an excellent sense of humor and an extremely caring personality. There was a lot of beauty in the colorful autumn leaves of maple trees with sun shining bright on them and the mountains. There was a lot of beauty in the niceness of the people especially women but I started writing these notes not to mention the beauty, I am writing because I am sad, I am hurt, my body aches since I have returned not because I am tired but because I am drained seeing so much injustice, inequality and oppression in the world. Its literally making me dizzy and affecting my personal health right now. I just came back from sunrise meditation, made coffee for myself and sat on the couch and effortlessly, tears started dropping from my eyes and I cried, I cried a lot and then decided to write it down so all the frustration that I have inside can just get vanished into the universe.
There were at least 16 check posts from Islamabad to Parachinar after which I lost count. There were very rude men on duty on some check posts humiliating people of Parachinar and some very kind ones, the women’s checking was done by a woman in a long black burqa, black gloves and black socks. In my opinion It did not look like a human being to me. The mobile Internet disappeared the moment we reached Kurram, there was no gas in Parachinar and the power was out most of the time. The people of FATA are Pakistanis as per our constitution but they cannot practice their basic human rights under the constitution of Pakistan because FATA is still being ruled under the British made Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) of 1901, which violates the fundamental rights of the people belonging to FATA regions. “The law states that three basic rights are not applicable to Fata residents, appeal, wakeel and daleel. Similarly other FCR articles violate the fundamental rights of the citizens of this area. Clause 21 deals with collective punishment and under section 22-23, fines are imposed on the entire tribe/family for the crime of a single person.”
Human – a member of Homo sapiens species, a woman, man or child; a person
Rights – Things to which you are entitled or allowed; freedoms that are guaranteed.
Human rights are the rights you have simply because you are a human. They are how you deserve to be treated as a person. There are many rights but human rights are the only ones that are applied to absolutely everyone and everywhere regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, race, location, religion, color of skin, language, status of finances, status of power etc etc. In other words they are universal. There are 30 human rights by United Nations all listed out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In Pakistan generally there is a violation of human rights in every corner but in FATA its not even there on papers, in documents.
The political agent is a very disliked personality from what you hear from people, the men are just abducted any time and put into barracks without them knowing the reason and with no rights to appeal or lawyer, the journalists are not being paid but if they don’t report for free , no one will find out about what is happening in FATA, the lady health workers and women government teachers are not being paid for months and women have to take the permission of the men to go out of the house, to use internet, to protest for their rights, to study, to work. Women only go out to limited areas completely covering themselves from large black chaadars, they work from morning to night inside homes cooking, cleaning, sewing, milking cows, making cottage cheese, taking care of the livestock, vegetables and fruits that they grow many times. They talk loud when sitting in all women but when even one man comes, their voice is unheard, they fear men. They fear men a lot. Women do not hold the right to property, they are subjected to domestic violence that they can’t talk about, and there is no support system for them. I did not find the women’s life much different from the life that of jail that Veerji had told me about but yes the women are all sentenced to life. I do not want to offend the extremely kind to me men of Parachinar but it was sad to see extremely progressive men with wives scared of them, subjected to kitchens only and humiliated by men on and off. I went to one of the imam bargahs with the women; Imam Bargah is the only place where women can socialize as well. When women would ask me why I was there and I would tell them that I came to open a woman sewing training center, they would get excited and ask me to establish more centers in the areas close to them as well. I planned a large community center for women with them where there would be a library, computer lab, sewing training center, Beautician course (as per their choice) etc etc. I hope I am able to do that but nothing is enough for FATA right now. Women are considered inferior beings than men who are already treated as much inferior than the rest of the Pakistanis. Anyway besides all these countless issues, my trip was beautiful, I went to amazing places, met beautiful people, was given a lot of care by everyone and was amazed at the strength of everyone to be able to manage to survive and smile and laugh in a land that has seen and continues to see so much violence, oppression and neglect.
I came back on 12th Oct with a very high energy and a good vibe after visiting the beautiful places of Parachinar but the next day was Veerji’s hearing and I couldn’t stop imagining him out of the jail and back to serving the people of his UC when the next day I found out that his hearing was delayed to 7th November and that he had to spend another month at least in that jail. I wrote these notes on my laptop instead of my diary. This is just a small percentage of the injustice in this country. There is a lot of work to do for the people who are privileged compared to the rest.