My Pakistani Person of the Year 2016: Qandeel Baloch

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

Well, it feels like as if I were writing a single post for the free speech hero and this one. But believe it or not, this has been the impact of Qandeel Baloch on the Pakistani society, in my opinion. She offered Pakistanis the necessary shockwave that was needed to break their convenient slumber of socially conservative morality. It was a much needed first shock needed to a population that is a bit too uptight about its sexuality while tolerating all sorts of perversions under the cover.

To her credit, model and liberal social media icon Qandeel Baloch single-handedly cleared up that suffocation a little. With a little help from earlier stars such as Mathira. A heroic model who appeared in a much-needed ad for a much-needed commodity in Pakistan. Condoms. Of course, the ad was banned. But condoms are not. More power to her.

Qandeel Baloch, alias Fauzia Azeem, started as an apparently cheap social media sensation, and slowly started gaining the sort of following that no one could ever anticipate. Her fame was further catapulted by the local media because, let’s face it, her unusually bold glamor sold like anything in a market thirsting for it. But little did her clueless audience realize that she was making statements that went beyond just fun and games.

Now, I wish I knew more about her. I wish I had followed her more and had not dismissed her in the way most ordinary Pakistanis had. I hardly ever followed her videos. I wish I had paid more attention to the buzz about her in the local media, but I knew what was largely going on about her person. At least I cannot accuse myself of ever condemning and rejecting her. At least morally and politically, I always found a supporter of her in myself.

When writing this post, I simply cannot put into words what Qandeel Baloch has really accomplished. She has been dubbed the Pakistani Kim Kardashian, a reality icon widely mocked for her superficially extravagant lifestyle and social media selfies. Imagine how big a reality star she would have become had she appeared in Bigg Boss on Indian TV.

Qandeel’s own lifestyle had become something similar from her humble beginnings, though nowhere near extravagant as that of the Hollywood superstar who never had to face any such odds in her life. Qandeel Baloch came from a much more difficult background and never ever really enjoyed the “privilege” you could accuse her of enjoying. Well, being a woman in Pakistan is enough to explain it, for that matter.

Now I hear that double Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has made a film on her life. Even though I was considering her to be the nominee for this title of mine this year, but even if she were to win three straight Oscars in a row, she would never have been able to pull off what Qandeel Baloch did. Perhaps no one could, short of a Pakistani Larry Flynt. Hell, not even such a character. And yes, a part of it is being a woman.

Qandeel Baloch’s sense of self-righteousness and of being morally upright came from a mix of the modern urban Pakistani liberalism, as well as the social conservative background of her roots in South Punjab. In an interview with Sohail Warraich recorded just before her death, you would hear her being a snob toward the “vulgar” mujra dancers. Being pro-mujra, that slightly offended me.

No, these women are not prostitutes. And yes, prostitutes are honorable women too. But I leave aversion to mujra as a personal aesthetic preference, as opposed to being a matter of making cultural judgments.

Unfortunately, she was accused herself of vulgarity by people from her ranks and from the less liberal sections of the more progressive Pakistani urban classes. You know, for twerking and not dressing up according to the standards ordained by the Sharia. Don’t believe me? Google for any of her videos and observe the titles from the socially conservative uploaders.

As I have often said, it sometimes becomes hard to keep track of what amounts to vulgar and what does not in Pakistan. I am not even sure what the word really means anymore.

And another thing that I like repeating is that it is easy to talk about feminist ideals. It is very hard to live them up in a society and industry dominated by men, who are going to attack you like a vicious pack of wolves from all directions and every chance they get. So it was obligatory for someone like me to defend her every chance I get. I have respect for what she did.

As I said, it is hard to articulate the impact of Qandeel Baloch. Through her bold antics, she proved how confined and captivated the Pakistani women really are. Through her outspokenness, she proved how tolerant our society really is. She basically demonstrated how free women are in our society and how hypocritical we are about our sexuality in public. She also proved how easily our men are willing to put our women to death for “honor.”

She was a resounding slap in the face of every woman-hating man rejecting the notion that Pakistan is not a society dominated by men.

She helped expose how disgusting religious clerics can be when it comes to women and in ways nobody could even imagine before.

She tested and questioned our moral compass in a complicated world in which we take it for granted, and exposed our hypocrisy harmlessly.

She showed how easy it was to kill in Pakistan, and for what reasons.

She made us feel immensely proud of being a Pakistani and made us feel immensely ashamed at the same time.

In that sense, she has been an iconoclast of the revolutionary proportions in her individual capacity. Nobody even comes close.

I learned about the news of her murder while I was on a shoot in Karachi this year’s July, right when I was in the middle of people in front of who I had to defend Qandeel Baloch. On that day, it seemed I really had no other substantial purpose to my existence. Not that there would be any otherwise. But when her brother and former husband are found involved in her murder, it is hard not to feel disappointed.

And the government also did not take her requests for security seriously.

I know a lot of people believe that a lot more people were so much more important to Pakistan this terrible year. But honestly, I don’t have time to think about those self-proclaimed saviors of this country. Because seriously nobody did this much for the Pakistani society for decades. Nobody in the history of this country ever promised a striptease for a Pakistani cricket star.

Qandeel Baloch is the star of the age of social media. I know she came into prominence from a Pakistan Idol audition, but it was social media that really took her voice to the people. So in many ways, in the transformation of the Pakistani society to more liberal and open ideas, social media is as much a star as are the people whose voices it is empowering.

And don’t let me forget. She is not my Pakistani Person of the Year because she was killed. Far from it. You know a lot of people died in 2016, including Edhi. It was not the death of Qandeel Baloch that made her special, but her life. It is her impact on the society that has outlived her, and it is our responsibility as citizens to carry it forward and fight ignorance, illiberalism, and obscurantism.

All I can say is that as a Pakistani citizen, I salute Qandeel Baloch and applaud her for her courage to express her sexuality. She is and must be an inspiration to all of us. Shame on us for not valuing her enough.

Farewell, and rest in peace, you brave, beautiful soul.

Read about my Pakistani person of the last year here.

The Mood to Talk

Source: Gary Busey/NBC/blogna.tv

Source: Gary Busey/NBC/blogna.tv

Someone starting to talk to you about something of your interest is like an appetizer really.

Baiting to make you want to go for more.

But then sometimes they withdraw, or have to.

I know this would sound ridiculous to a lot of people, but it is like coitus interruptus, or someone denying you orgasm after stimulation. Or perhaps leaving you with that terrible urge that chain smokers feel when they have not smoked for a while.

Why would stimulating your brain be any different to stimulating your genitals? Also, why does touching or manipulating your genitals get so much attention and doing the same to your brain does not even get a mention?

It’s just there is no apparent release point of this energy, depending on what kind of energy you are dealing with here.

I know not everyone may have the energy to keep up with the discussion, but this is how it works for some.

I would not mind passing out with an overdose at the end of the day, if you ask me.

But someone rightly pointed out to me.

Wouldn’t it kill the very purpose?

The Logic Behind Honor Killing

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Call me naïve, ignorant, immoral or disconnected from my culture, but I never could understand the logic behind honor killing.

I have thought about the subject a lot anyway, but hearing a recent news of one of these frequent incidents made me want to ask the question loud.

Why do brothers and fathers, or any other male (or sometimes even female) members of a Pakistani family, who outrage so much when a female of the clan is found to have a relationship against their wishes, and what particularly changes in the nature of sexual relationship when she copulates with someone of their choice under a matrimonial bond?

Marriage merely becomes another tool to control people, doesn’t it? But seriously, someone is still having sex with that woman. Oh, is it about sex?

This emotion known as “gairat” is rather loosely and perhaps erroneously translated into “honor” and this emotion is shared by population throughout the country, and even in other countries such as India, Afghanistan and actually people here and there all around the world.

While gairat has something to do with family honor, it is also related to sexuality and the jealousy affiliated with it. There would be probably be no film noir had there been no such sentiments in the West. I am not even sure if such emotions can be termed natural or not, but they surely make sense.

Now while it seems a very noble and chauvinistic quality, it probably kills its very supposed purpose by finding satisfaction from killing the very “offender-victim” it is meant to protect.

And if a jealous cuckold husband kills an adulterer or a cheating couple gets rid of the inadequate husband, it would make sense, but it requires the brain of Sigmund Freud to get your head around fathers and brothers killing daughters and sisters and sons killing mothers.

But during a marriage, which, at least and especially in Indian culture is a mere material transaction for the woman to spend the rest of her life as a slave, the family honor is somehow fulfilled giving away their daughter in such a manner. This shameless public display of humiliation is somehow considered honorable.

What is even worse, many, if not most, of these families would tolerate all sorts of atrocities in the name of married life. You would expect them to wreak even more havoc in the event of acts such as domestic abuse, not that such exceptions do not occur, often depending on the social status of the offended.

So in the Indian subcontinent, domestic abuse is widely considered nothing unusual in the married life by most traditional people, who find separation and legal divorce process a disgrace.

The rationale behind honor killing is certainly that women are property, the attachment of great offense to its violation and that women do not have the privilege of pursuing sexual liberties like men. People are brought up believing that all around the world in one way or another actually.

Though in the conservative Pakistani society, even men are not completely free to pursue sexual relationships, with peace at least, either. Because let’s face it, men are also victims of honor killings and are at least traumatized when a partner is targeted.

This is why I consider establishing a sexual or marital relationship in the Pakistani society a great risk that could potentially take your life. You just never know where you would offend the honor of a person, and usually one person in a group is enough to initiate a riot.

It is like committing a blasphemy with which most people somehow get away easily, but not everyone is so lucky. And you could be next.

But it is only understandable why people are so outraged about the event of the greatest cosmic significance in their lives. After all, the propagation of the human race depends on it. It must be pure and noble.

It is a pity that God chose sex as the method of procreation and created the vulgarity of genitals in the human body.

Nevertheless, sex is a sin. And the penalty is death.