Justice Katju: The statement of Pakistan’s UN envoy Munir Akram

Justice Markandey Katju

Justice Katju-

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, said that it is part of Pashtun culture that women should be kept at home.

Assuming that is so, should such regressive cultural customs be respected or suppressed? In this connection I may mention an incident.

When some persons told Gen Napier, a British army officer in India, that it was their custom to burn widows (sati), he replied that it was his country’s custom to hang such persons as murderers.

While many social customs should be respected, many others – for example, discrimination against Dalits in India – must not be tolerated, and should be forcibly suppressed.

When the great Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) assumed power in Turkey he realised that one of the reasons for Turkey’s backwardness, for which it was kicked around by European powers (who called Turkey ‘The Sick Man of Europe’) was the widely prevalent custom of keeping women uneducated, veiled, and segregated.

So he ordered all women to be compulsorily educated and desegregated.

In a speech in 1923 he said, “Women are the pillars of society and wellspring of the nation. They must bring up and educate strong new generations, but they can only do this if they themselves are enlightened. Turkish women must therefore be well educated, and capable of gaining respect in society.”

He pointed out that without equality between men and women, national progress was impossible.

This is in sharp contrast to the policy of the Taliban (who are bigoted village idiots) of keeping women uneducated, veiled, and at home.

For its progress, Afghanistan needs a King Amanullah (who was king of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929), who tried to emancipate Afghan women.

The people of Afghanistan (not foreigners) should overthrow these feudal minded village idiots, and set up a modern government like the one created by Mustafa Kemal, or like that envisaged by King Amanullah.

As the great Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi (1882-1921) wrote in his poem ‘Murasu’:
”Kangal Irandinil ordrai kuththi
Kaatchi Kedutthidalamo
Pengal arivai valarthal, vaiyyam
Pedamai attridum kaaneer ”

(Out of the two eyes, if you pierce and destroy one,
are you not spoiling your own vision?
Indeed, if you educate women, the backwardness
which grips this world will vanish automatically)

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