Qandeel Baloch and Asma Jahangir | Photos: Twitter and Wikimedia Commons
Qandeel Baloch and Asma Jahangir | Photos: Twitter and Wikimedia Commons
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ASMA JAHANGIR 1952 – 2018 | LAHORE

By the time Asma Jahangir was 18 years old, her father, a retired bureaucrat turned politician, had been imprisoned several times for public protest. And while she learned to stand up for what was right from her parents, being fearless came naturally to her. As a young student at a conventrun school in Lahore, she rallied to change how the head girl was selected. Asma demanded there be ‘at least a semblance of an election’, instead of a girl being chosen by the nuns, as was tradition. The school administration eventually agreed, while retaining veto power.

It was the year 1971, however, that marked her formal entry into a lifetime of public struggle and activism. Her father had been imprisoned yet again, this time by the then President, General Yahya Khan. Asma filed a petition for his release in the Lahore High Court, which was dismissed. She later said, ‘Courts were not new to me. Even before his detention, my father remained in jail . . . we were not allowed to go see him there. We always saw him in courts. So for me, the courts were a place where you dressed up to see your father.’ Unfazed, young Asma appealed to the Supreme Court. When Yahya Khan’s rule ended in 1972, the courts declared the imprisonment illegal and Asma won her very first case. The young girl had found her calling and she was off to law school!


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However, she was forced to drop out when she fell in love and got married; the college had a strict policy disallowing married women from attending. Asma persevered, unstoppable in her goal to become a lawyer, and managed to complete her degree. She went on to set up the very first female law firm in the country, specializing in divorce and custody, with her sister and two friends.

Asma was known for her immense courage and her unwavering strength and capacity to stand against forces that would crush the oppressed. Even when placed under house arrest for fighting a law that discriminated against women and religious minorities under the pretext of Islamization, she persisted. She risked life and limb when she stepped out on the streets and spoke out on public television and later, on her spirited twitter account. She never stopped calling out those in power who perpetuated misogyny in the name of religion, and spread violence and intolerance.

Asma was a founding member of the Women’s Action Forum (read more about this on page 89), a feminist movement that started in the 1980s, and established the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. She became the very first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association in 1983. Asma not only battled religious injustices, she also fought for the rights of women, minorities, for freedom to choose whom you marry, and opposed bonded labour and the controversial blasphemy law, managing to irk many—from the military to the mullahs. When she passed away in 2018, Pakistan mourned the loss of a great woman who did more for its democratic and inclusive future than any other person in recent history.


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QANDEEL BALOCH 1990 – 2016 | DERA GHAZI KHAN

No one expected Qandeel Baloch to become a feminist icon for young women in the country. Known as Pakistan’s ‘Kim Kardashian’, she had been infamous for her racy social media content. Born as Fauzia Azeem in a conservative and patriarchal part of rural Punjab, she was raised where women had no voice and were expected to obey the men in their life. Fauzia was married when she was only 17 years of age, to a man she disliked. She walked out of the marriage, which was abusive—something many accused her of making up, and took refuge in a women’s shelter in Multan with her son. When the child fell ill, Fauzia was forced to give him up. But she continued to reclaim her life, completing her education and struggling to make ends meet through low-paying jobs until she finally broke into the entertainment industry as Qandeel Baloch.

She started small—cheap fashion shows, small shoots and even a failed audition for Pakistan Idol—but soon made a successful career out of dramatic and catty television appearances. She reconnected with her family, moving her parents to her house and financing her sister’s wedding and dowry. But she kept her two lives separate. No one outside her family knew that Qandeel and Fauzia were the same person.


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As she grew her persona, Qandeel became bolder. She began using social media to push the envelope on how women are expected to behave in public, pouting and posing provocatively and asking followers unsettling questions like, ‘How am I looking?’. Pakistan was in equal parts intrigued and appalled. Some called her shameless, others admired her ability to do as she liked. Gradually and perhaps without design, Qandeel’s coy online familiarities took on a more serious agenda. She began to leverage her celebrity status to empower women, her voice resonating among progressive Pakistani society. ‘As a women [sic], we must stand up for ourselves . . . As a women [sic], we must stand up for justice. I am a modern day feminist . . . I am just a women [sic] with free thoughts, free mindset and I LOVE THE WAY I AM.’

While Qandeel remained unabashedly vocal about the patriarchy, the release of her music video mocking the limits placed on Pakistani women had her spooked. She had seen money and mobility come her way as Qandeel but continued to feel the lack of freedom and the effects of her patriarchal family as Fauzia. This controversial video became her last when the press uncovered the identity of the ‘real Baloch’. On 15 July 2016, eighteen days after this reveal, Qandeel was killed by her brother for actions that he felt ‘dishonoured’ the family.

Qandeel’s life has been revisited on television and most recently, in a book entitled The Sensational Life and Death of Qandeel Baloch. Because sensational she was! This feisty woman, who came from nowhere and with nothing, had singlehandedly managed to grab the attention of an entire nation to make a name for herself. ‘I don’t know HOW many girls have felt support through my persona. I’m a girl power. So many girls tell me I’m a girl power, and yes, I am.’

This excerpt from Fearless written by Amneh Shaikh-Farooqui and illustrations by Aziza Ahmad has been published with permission from Penguin Random House India. 

 

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48 Comments Share Your Views

48 COMMENTS

  1. in all these comments ,i can clearly see the intolerance, backwardness & patriarchal mindset of (some)muslims ,if u guys r hell bent on supporting Pakistani men,then please go to Pakistan ,becaz it’s a nation which is specifically made for u ,we don’t want u in india u stubborn fools !!!!!

  2. OMG, Lot of talking about Women. Islam and women very shame this about Islamic prophet how many marriage where is the women respect. Some one says Islamic prophet help them ohhh really you can help like daughter sister friend etc it’s not necessaries you have have to married with all innocent woment. Don’t talk more that’s the answer about respect of Women.

  3. Only these two ladies and some others fighting for rights other in millions dont need rights they are happily living with their families and also ruling. If you need more information or you wanna reality come to my village and find out truth but come with honesty dont come after eating some $$$….
    Isi zinda bad
    Pak Army zinda bad…

  4. Keep your fine words for b oth these ladies with yourself. Both were nag e deen and mange dunya. If your sympathy has arisen look into your country in Kashmir. What brutality you are not coming there on helpless kashmiries. You and all world have to pay the price for this . Corona is just a small move. So be ready!

  5. But a rubbish article, why are you spoiling image of our country??? These two women were not innocent, whatever they got was the fruit of their own actions.

  6. This is a book I’m certainly going to read. There are skeletons piled upon skeletons, especially when it comes to women’s place, in Pakistani society. In my visits to the country, all you needed to do was scratch the surface of any living room conversation to discover this truth. I forget the titles now, but 2 European women have also written a book each on the subject. I consider it my life’s greatest fortune that my parents had the wisdom to leave Pakistan months before it was born.

  7. Apni gandi khuahishat ko rights ka naam mat den…..in orton ko Apni zindgi mn jo jch krna hai kren ya ksi ese mulk chali jyn jahan hr trh ki gandgi ki ijazat hai( well ab unko b virus ne achi trh smjhadia hai k jism ka istamal kese krna hai) 😀😀😀lekin apni gndi demnds ko public demand mt bolen… Na legal krny ki koshish.. Q k in the end buraai ka anjaam bura hi hota hai… Or aynda b asee orton ka yehi anjam hoga… “A proud muslim princess”

    • You need to be in touch with Psychiatrist immediately, before your mental condition deteriorates. Good Luck. CM Kalsi Ex-serviceman IAF.

  8. Afzal guru was not a shaheed. He deserved that punishment. He was a terrorist and every terrorist is a disgrace and threat to the whole world. The non muslim population in Pakistan and the muslim population in India itself explains which country is more safer and secure.

  9. But these women were evilest
    One blamed a respectable religious personality for what he hadn’t done
    Just to get famous

    Other spoke against establishment,
    Can any country have people which bark against army?
    Can India have them?

    Asma jahangir wasn’t killed ,
    She died in a hospital

    While qandeel baloch was killed by her own brother

  10. Thank you for eye opening article, but its timing.
    Why you open an old pandora box ?
    Are you fully aware of their characters ?
    Do you want to damage the Pakistani image ?
    Do you want to hide something happening in our nabouring country ?
    We are facing the worst health situation ever.

  11. Bcoz of suppressing of women’s rights in most Islamic nations women r not willing to be born in Muslim countries in their next birth.. Lot of Male Female ratio imbalance in most Islamic nations… All Muslim women r willing to be born again as a Hindu women.. God willing… Shameless pigs will ignore this post…

    • Sunduram You should learn first what Islam has given status to woman then you may barkout about it compare it with your historical Hinduism where the wife was burnt alive with the dirty dead husband how dear you naked Hindu shouting at Muslim that he his heals are visible out of the shalwar? Pity on your dirty mind.

      • It’s you who need a lesson on on history before Islam was born women used to streets freely without hiding their faces it was thanks to you guys families made their to hide their faces in your fear.

      • OMG, Lot of talking about Women. Islam and women very shame this about Islamic prophet how many marriage where is the women respect. Some one says Islamic prophet help them ohhh really you can help like daughter sister friend etc it’s not necessaries you have have to married with all innocent woment. Don’t talk more that’s the answer about respect of Women.

  12. Writer also belongs to Mera Jism Meri Marzi lolz 😒🙄 now look on this world who has the Supreme power, who has the real superpower? Your so called latest technology is going to big zero against a tiny virus which we cannot even see our eyes. Thats call the Allah’s power the one and only, always nd forever. Don’t make the stories for fame nd put inside masala for the readers. Allah knows very well each and everything.

  13. Asma Jhangir was fake personality. If you look at her life she never stood up for poor and helpless people. She only used her position for rich elite and corrupt politicians. She was hired by all those leading politicians whose scandal published in all international news paper. So you need to do more research no copy paste please..

  14. Wow you only want click on your website with such kind of controversial characters headlines. Qandeel was. What I will say now to you. Did you forget Fatima Jinnah Bainazeer Bhutto Arfa Karim Aafia Siddiqui Nazia Hassan Noor Jahan Abida Parveen Parvin Shakir and many many more who got their rights and mulla was not “Naraz” from them… Only you wants clicks.

  15. At least Pak courts need not to learn from Indian judiciary…..we all know the cases of BABRI MASJID, Where CJI was BESTOWED by an RS member chair….and he willingly gave the verdict against the law of natural justice….
    By doing this not only verdict of Babri masjid was under criticism but entire judiciary of India was encircled….
    Now if you have guts then take Babrimasjid case, Shaheed Afzal Guru, Maqbool bhat , Ishrat Jahan case, gujrat riots 2001 case to ICJ and see the result…..

    • India is the only country where the majority begging for justice whereas our adjacent country Pakistan which broken more than 408 temple after 1947. In Kashmir hundreds of temple are broken after 1947. The babri masjid and most of the masjid in my India Pakistan Bangladesh and Afghanistan were conducted after breaking the Temple with that same stone on the same place.

    • You can see nothing from a broader prospective.he did right Muslims in India have far more freedom and prospects than Hindus in your country.your media spells unnecessary hatred speeches which is advocated even by the educated

    • The massacre of HINDUS in Malabar, Malegaon,Barbanki n many others places (before n after Independence ) at the hands of ISLAMIC Jehadi s should be taken up

    • Why only babri mazid? Why are you silent about the temples demolished by Muslim rulers? Don’t you belong to the same religion who demolished 100s of temples?

  16. At least Pak courts need not to learn from Indian judiciary…..we all know the cases of BABRI MASJID, Where CJI was BESTOWED by an RS member chair….and he willingly gave the verdict against the law of natural justice….
    By doing this not only verdict of Babri masjid was under criticism but entire judiciary of India was encircled….
    Now if you have guts then take Babrimasjid case, Shaheed Afzal Guru, Maqbool bhat , Ishrat Jahan case, gujrat riots 2001 case to ICJ and see the result…..

  17. Kandeel was killed by her brother for illegal relations with many people author of this article is making just stupid and nonsense news

    • So you the men and in particular the illetrate mullahs, which she was right to say about, will decide her character. How many of you can claim the same about you. And of course his brother who was surviving on her earnings , did not commit suicide, on being fed with such a perceived dirty money. Hypocrate

      • I understand killing seem not a suitable but you tell if your sisters sleep with many peoples and bring defame to your family, and you try to make understand but she doesn’t listen you the what would you do?

        • Women must b allowed to enjoy various rights which some mullahs thought can’t b enjoyed by a Muslim women.
          I will not going to support the murder of qandeel baloch on account of dishonouring her culture, she didn’t deserve death, but I will also not support the vulgarity she was spreading which is totally haram for a Muslim pious women. She or any other women can earn fame from any dignified work like our female army officers pilots lawyers and doctors. But doing naked nude shows on YouTube can’t b justified. This is not a women power. I don’t consider it a women power. Women power is not showing breasts and legs. Women power is something else. Beyond imagination. Be sad for her untimely and ruthless death but don’t acknowledge her work. Stop this non sense in name of women power. Should I count you who are the best examples of women power?

    • A word of advice please…..never defend honour killings, never defend the actions of those who would take justice into their own hands. What right did he have to decide who lives and who dies? An uneducated,ignorant, thick headed, egotistical man. I do not defend her actions, but I do not support his, nor those of any so called man who chooses the path of murder.

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