THE WAY IT WAS: Women for the taking? óMian Ijaz Ul Hassan

Let us not be deceived. Some people do find great fascination in wielding power and ruthlessly exercising it. For them it is better than being bogged down with abstractions like love and law. There is only a marginal difference between a despot and a rapist. One forces himself on a woman, the other on an unwilling people

With every passing year we are becoming loud, angry and rude. There can be several plausible explanations for this. It is abundantly evident that fundamental contradictions between the poor and the rich, civil society and military bureaucracy, the Centre and the federated units and between democracy and autocratic rule are visibly sharper. Whatever democratic consensus lingered feebly over the years has virtually ceased to exist. Besides the social and political factors, the smoldering anger may be due to our sense of guilt for condoning the slow obliteration of the founding principles of our country through our political passivity. But spitting rude adjectives at the protagonists, instead of resisting the antagonist, cannot sooth our wounds. It is through preserving oneís anger, restraining oneself from futile bickering and togetherness in the struggle to change the circumstances that one can be at peace with oneself. Those burdened by guilt and frequently bruised by frustrations tend to expend their anger on their immediate friends rather than direct it against the enemy. Being closer, a wife, a son or a daughter, a brother or a companion are convenient targets. They are also unlikely to retaliate. Learning to distinguish friends from foes is vital even if it is not easy.

Dr Shazia, the Sui rape victim, seems to have been forced to migrate and settle in Canada. How Doctor Sahiba got the Canadian residency and was transported out of the country may remain an enigma. The process was secret and the honourable court dealing with the case was not aware of it. It was also efficiently handled considering that a few days earlier the authorities were refusing to allow Dr Sahiba to transfer some of her household belongings to Karachi, where, rumour had it, she was under strict surveillance. The deed done, it doesnít perhaps matter much how it was done. As a consequence, the culprit will go unpunished. The state, whose bounden duty it is to ensure that criminals are punished, has not muttered a word on the subject.

And what has been the reaction of the self proclaimed religious scholars? It has apparently been confined to the pathetic insistence on having a religion column in our passport. So, rape is not a serious issue on their agenda? Sex crimes should be taken as a part of a vigorous life? It all depends how you look at it.

In sick societies, I am afraid, imagining a woman being raped titillates males. Are we not all aware of some creeps who gloat over sexual perversions, reported in the press in sordid detail. Some of the readers appear to be actually envious of those who indulge in them. Is it strange that a person should find greater satisfaction in forcing himself upon a stranger than care for a woman who might love him? Let us not be deceived. Some people do find great fascination in wielding power and ruthlessly exercising it. For them it is better than being bogged down with abstractions like love and law. There is only a marginal difference between a despot and a rapist. One forces himself on a woman, the other does it to an unwilling people.

Would you agree that there can be a greater sense of self-attainment in perversity than in honest labour? No? Then why do the villains fascinate the imagination more than heroes do? Mephistopheles, Lucifer, Satan ó call him by any name ó has a striking dramatic presence compared to our dusty Adam. Satan, made of fire, takes exception to God for pronouncing Adam, who is made of common clay, his better. Surprisingly, he is charged with vanity that later becomes an important human attribute. Today no one would find it surprising ó no they would in fact find it most natural ó for a wife to protest if the husband were to announce another woman into the house and insist that the wife should prostrate before the new wench. The more robust wife would go to the extent of hitting the husband on the head with a ladle or the vatta out of the chuttoo ó whichever is handy. Satan was similarly overcome with jealousy and failed to comprehend Godís larger scheme of things, brought almost to naught by the fickle Adam who is so easily seduced by Eve. Adam the pampered, lets his Creator down at first opportunity. Apples are juicier and crunchier than some other fruits but for Adam to lose his head over it sounds a bit far fetched unless, of course, there was more to the apple. God is angry. Adam is thrown out of the Heaven. Eve, considered responsible for his misdemeanour, is also asked to vacate her apartment. Why should Eve be punished for sharing an apple with Adam would escape any one who has any sense of good manners?

God demands that Adam and Eve live a life of penance on planet Earth. They are told that it is only when they have redeemed themselves by personal trial and suffering that they can be allowed back in Heaven. For most people the question whether Eve invited Adam to have the apple or Adam took it off her without being asked, will remain unanswered. It is best perhaps to assume that they were courteous consenting companions. Why should any one object to that?

Adam, the free loader, was greatly grieved when free board and lodging facilities were withdrawn and he was asked to leave. From now on he would have to work for God and fend for himself. He was determined not to let God down this time. He brushed back his hair from over his dark brow with his long fingers, looked for a big fig leaf and persuaded Eve to pluck three for herself. There had been enough trouble already. After a few days when he felt his spirits restored it dawned upon him that in order to redeem himself he needed to better the place where the lived. Thus he immediately proceeded to have instead of one ó as prescribed by the doctors today ó several apples a day so that he could raise a veritable workforce to help him in his endeavours. Unfortunately one of his sons was greedy and a lecherous lout. Finding an opportunity one dark night he struck and killed his brother. He then took possession of his brotherís wife and other material assets. It was not a nice thing to do, you will agree. One bad precedent leads to another. Thus it becomes difficult to eradicate evil. To this day honest men have been trying to rewrite the story of Cane and Able but to no avail. Look at what bad precedents have done to our own country. The new precedents being claimed to remedy our problems are further adding to our pains and trials.

Conquests have been incessantly followed by plunder and rape. The victors feel victorious only when the honour of the vanquished is defiled by rape of their women. Would women have been raped so frequently if manís honour was not linked to them? Sex can exercises so awesome power over the mind of men that it can actually impair it. It is unfortunate that men should gain a greater sense of manhood from war and subjugation than from defending the meek and caring for them.

Aitzaz Ahsan and his associates have filed Mukhtar Maiís appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. There are not many men who can plead the cause of the wretched as valiantly as Aitzaz. We have now to wait and see what the Superior Court has to say on the subject. Are women for the taking?

Prof Ijaz Ul Hassan is a painter, author and political activist. He can be reached at