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:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Russell Mokhiber
The Rabble Rise Together Against Bernie, Barney, Elizabeth and Hillary
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail