Pakistan’s ‘virtue vigilantes’

(Image: Stringer Photo)

As a follow-up to my last post on women in Iraq: OutlookIndia has a story on a similar climate developing in Pakistan.

Just the other day Tahera Abdullah was driving down the spiffy Margalla Road in Islamabad, the windows rolled down to enjoy the evening breeze. A development worker, her silvery hair could tell anyone she’s 50 plus. Tahera stopped at the traffic signal; an eight-year-old boy accosted her: didn’t she know Islam required her to cover her head? Tahera immediately rolled up the window. “How do you argue with an eight-year-old?” she asks. But the encounter with Pakistan’s religious extremism, at once frightening and puerile, has prompted Tahera to choose sweating inside the car over letting in the breeze. “We women are feeling more threatened today,” she says.

Sherry [Rehman, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party] … has experienced the destructive passion of the country’s religiosity. Two months ago, she was in a truck leading a PPP procession. An assailant stabbed her in the neck with a sharp object, to express his anger against women in politics. “The person who attacked me hasn’t been apprehended yet,” she said. “We are in a state of anarchy today. It’s a dangerous retreat of the state. There’s simply no check on the vice and virtue vigilantes.”

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