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.

Related posts on: Rape Laws in Pakstan and ATP Poll on Women’s Rights Action.

17 responses to “WAF 25th Anniversary Today”

  1. samdani says:

    I think the courage shown by many journalists in the earliest Zia years was also a source of pride for all of us. Remember, they were the ones who got the biggest lashes but stood ground on principle.

  2. YLH says:

    On another note… A great day for Pakistan’s alternative lifestyle community as well as PTV. Ali Saleem covered by BBC…


    Pakistan’s ground-breaking transvestite
    By Syed Shoaib Hasan
    BBC News, Karachi

  3. TURAB says:

    ^^^^well said YLH!

  4. YLH says:

    There is only one thing that should be repeated … so that it becomes ingrained in the Pakistani mind…

    No nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of their houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to live. You should take your women along with you as comrades in every sphere of life.”

    — Mahomed Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan)

  5. Mantra says:

    @ Ishaq:

    So the WAF is not considered representative of the country (by you) – in your opinion, that’s a abd thing.

    Then if they were to attach themselves to a mainstream national party, there’s still room for destructive criticsm.

    Just say plainly you don’t share the same goals, disagree, think its impossible, etc.

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