FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Imagining Serfdom in a Scarf

by FARZANA VERSEY

She’s back because she never went back. Pakistan was a nice stopover. Hurrah! She’s a woman. She’s brave. She’s a moderate. She speaks good English. She’s Bristol-educatedah, will make the cut. And she’s not bad looking either.

Now I am mimicking all of these opening lines that Jemima Khan used as she tried going for the kill to claim her pound of legitimacy. The Hermes scarf is the oh-so-flip touch that in fact endows both these women.

Which is what makes the critique a bit like Isadora Duncan’s scarf: “It is red and so am I”. What is precious is Jemima attempting to save world opinion from converting Benazir Bhutto into a martyr. It is unlikely to happen for the simple reason that the lady is so power-hungry that she calls people that have turned into corpses as evidence of democracy and an ‘inevitable’ fallout. Martyrdom requires a bit more.

Who should know this better than the new cleavage-turned-chador-wearing and back to cleavage Jemima Khan? Her nine years in Pakistan were seen as exile from Annabel’s and rather appropriately she was canonised as Blonde Power by the Western press. As I had once stated, there were breathless exclamations deifying her: Look, someone broke into her Fulham house and it was a politically-motivated act! Look, she was called a Zionist conspirator yet she wrote passionately about the Palestinian cause! Look, she campaigned with her husband in the heat and dust and spoke Urdu and a bit of Pashto! Look, she lives with her in-laws and shares her bed with her kids! Look, she took Lahore shadow-work to London! She did these in her capacity as the wife of a man who may have changed jobs but has only one profession: Being Imran Khan.

Of course, Imran is no Asif Zardari. He is rather sophisticated to settle for 10 percent of loot. However, he too is the sanctioned owner of hubris, a necessary requisite in subcontinental politics, unlike the West where it is an adornment.

What I find disturbing about Jemima’s analysis is when she says, “This is no Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her repeated insistence that she’s ‘fighting for democracy’, or even more incredibly, ‘fighting for Pakistan’s poor’.” I find it disturbing because she has a short memory; she has forgotten that Pakistan is still an Islamic Republic where democracy will follow at least some of the religious norms, and fighting for poverty is a slogan all politicians revel using. It is like the posh circles talking about limited edition solitaires.

Ms. Khan was herself being manipulated to reinforce the delusion of British superiority, almost in an Empire strikes back fashion. While Benazir may become a martyr only in the eyes of the West, Jemima became a martyr at the hall of matrimony that soon got consecrated as pedestal politics. Pakistan’s erratic electricity, water supply and the rumour that she did not even have a (shudder!) washing machine became tabloid chatter.

Pity-tinged headlines tried to recall the child of innocence caught in the jungle of Pakistani rough terrain. It might be pointed out here that the UNICEF ambassador post has come courtesy walking around with head covered through these very streets.

Therefore, when Jemima says that “Benazir is a pro at playing to the West. And that’s what counts. She talks about women and extremism and the West applauds. And then conspires”, it really brings back memories of how she was in fact pitted against the same woman by the West. And they found a precedent to harp on, no matter that it was a flawed one, to prove the compromises she would be forced to make: they said Benazir Bhutto gave up her slacks and opted for the shalwar kameez when she came to Pakistan. There are two problems with this. One is that Bhutto was head of the government twice, and represented a particular tradition. Surely, she wasn’t expected to traipse around in strapless gowns at official functions? Two, if Asians in the West wearing traditional clothes become objects of curiosity, if not amusement, then why should Western garb be exempted in Asia? Or is Western attire normal, while Eastern clothes are peculiar?

It was Jemima who became the one off-shoulder gown shoulder to fire the gun from.

She is absolutely right is accusing Benazir of doing nothing to repeal the Hudood Ordinance, but that is where she stops. For Ms. Khan is not in a position to be the total-recall feminist. She changed her religion, her name and her identity to ‘fit in’; it could hardly have been a desire to belong for there was always the charitable stance of wanting to do something. This is as political as it can get. Besides, Jemima still harbours a tunnel-vision of what constitutes gender disparity.

At what cost are women in the West better off? There are women who break through the glass ceiling in the West as they do in India and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I would say the areas of exploitation differ and we mistake them for degrees of exploitation.

The problem is that Jemima Khan appears to be grandly granting Benazir the vanity of looking good on Larry King’s sofa while making no attempt to discuss how in the interiors and even in the cities women are fighting against outdated laws every single day. Pakistani politics is a bit more complicated than calculating the euros spent on a Hermes scarf.

FARZANA VERSEY is a Mumbai-based writer-columnist. Her book ‘A Journey Interrupted: An Indian Muslim Woman in Pakistan’, published by Harper Collins, is scheduled for release by year-end. She can be contacted at kaaghaz.kalam@gmail.com

 

 

Farzana Versey can be reached at Cross Connections

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail