WAF 25th Anniversary Today

Posted on November 5, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, Women
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Adil Najam

November 5 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Women’s Action Forum (WAF) in Pakistan.

For all of us who lived through the Zia era, the scars of those memories run deep into our psyche. This is not the time or place to talk about the pain that was inflicted on our national ethos by those years. But this I do know: very few demonstrated the courage of conviction and stood up to the Zia regime, its KoRas, and its brutality with the resolute steadfastness and graceful persistence that WAF and its membership demonstrated.

While too many of us stood quietly in the corner and sulked, they stood up for what they believed in and confronted the laathis of the police. In doing so, they made us feel proud of that which they did while also ashamed of that which we did not do. No matter what you think about the issues that the WAF has stood for and pushed over these 25 years, for that demonstration of courage alone it deserves our respect.

According to a Dawn report about the WAF silver jubilee:

All three chapters of the WAF, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, have gathered [in Lahore] to celebrate 25 years of the founding of the forum, the women’s rights organisation working in close collaboration with other civil society and democratic forces to defend the rights of women and all oppressed and marginalised sections of society…. These and hundreds of other, anonymous, women pioneers representing the struggle by civil society against the forces of obscurantism broke the ice at a time when chilly winds blew across the country, freezing even the few men who dared to speak up in their tracks, as efforts were being made by Gen Zia’s dictatorial regime to further gag the women, the minorities and the democratic voices.

The defunct student and trade unions and the harassed political activists later joined the struggle led by the show of courage that these brave women put up against what they saw as distortion of the social order and dreams of an emancipated society that Pakistanis from all religious, ethnic and economic backgrounds had long cherished. The Women’s Action Forum emerged on the scene as a vanguard of a movement that defied General Zia’s martial law and its torturous tactics. On Feb 12, 1983, the WAF along with the Pakistan Women Lawyers’ Association took out a public rally against the Law of Evidence on The Mall, Lahore, which came under brutal police attack. The late poet Habib Jalib was prevailed upon to rally the women demonstrators with his rebel-rousing poetry before being beaten by the police. This was a turning point in the gathering of democratic forces against military dictatorship.

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17 responses to “WAF 25th Anniversary Today”

  1. Afroze says:

    Wonderful article. These are the true heroes of Pakistan, who have kept the idea of freedom alive even during the terrible Zia years.

  2. Ghalib says:

    Zia was brutal!but thats wat dictators are for.i lived those years in pindi and teh army fervor!being a son of a naval officer i just wanted to be a soldier but became a doctor.as i grew older i heard my father saying” there wasnt a single corruption charge agianst bhutto”and tht did it so i read the book “if i am assasinated”by bhuuto while he was in jail.and tht turned me what eva crap i read in the pakstudies of that time abt the most progressive politician we had.its sad what ever we have pride in today he did it!and what did army gave us? Taliban,the false impression that russians wana taste hot waters of the arabian? God but ppl bought that story!Hadood though right but given by a person that had no credibilty was rong!ill juss name some army achievements 1971(post ayub-yahya policy) the afghan policy,MQM to crush PPP in Sind and karachi(i aint a PPP supporter!)the feudalism,to make industrialists politicias(nawaz and shujaats) feudals like the jamalis)an u can see MUSH has whom in his boat:) same ppl bhutto wana crush!thou himself a feudal!he had problems but trust me he had a vision!thats y he has following till today and from whom? the repressed!now on the woman issue!i am for female equality not even islam rebuked them but i have my reseravtions.i agere with the comments abt WAF’s contribution are mere protests and 5 star hotel seminars but in reality they dont know any thing abt the main stream woman problems?the first is education i have heard from any one askin for women university or wmoen colleges all i hear is eqiual rights? the one i guess who speak of em are i guess ignorant of the fact that they have the rights but they dont know it and wat can eliminate it is EDUCATION not a seminar abt SEWING MACHINE duistribution and makin headlines the clothes the cars these women travel wat they eatand wat they drink???? yes mineral water and the women they wana help dun even have water! they are all outta stream!they have their own politics!and its a drama they they do juss like Zia did by calling Jihad against some one tht never came in our country!if WAF APWA Asma jahangir wana help the women they can without being batton charged goto villages educate women give them money the same money tht u spend on 5 star hotel seminars!think abt it!we have full stomachs think abt them who crave fer food!fer shelter!breakl the norms give rights tht women need they need education not the slogan tht “we aint gona observe pardah” thts even not an issue!women rights fer these kind of NGOs is a golden plate and acquire money and distribute 5% to sewing machines and 80% seminars where not a single effectie is presnt the ones are the ones tht are doomed to get sewing machinees!WAF has aliented and took women freedom away from them they dint help[ they made the problem worse!

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