Author: Nadia Khan Yousufzai
We always discuss how a child in our surroundings was raped or molested, but we rarely do anything about it. After an initial knee-jerk reaction, we just move on.
There is a perception that Pashtun men are afflicted with Pedophilia which is a mental illness that has been left untreated for so many reasons and so many centuries. Our men think sexual attraction to children is normal because Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, married Ayesha at the age of 9 (according to Sahi Bukhari Hadiths).
Yes, our new version of “feminist” Islam is arguing about it but the reality is that Sahi Bukhari is considered the most authentic Hadiths and followed by the majority of Muslims.
On the other hand, Pashtun culture also seems supportive of paedophilia. We always hear an older man married a young girl but our men/women discussing it are not shaken or disgusted by it. Why? Because it is part of our culture and religion that has been practised for centuries. If we listen to our poetry carefully, it clearly promotes and romanticizes paedophilia. Our poetry is full of describing girls being young and innocent.
Thus, Pashtun paedophiles think that it is a normal feeling and that is why they do not hesitate to take away a child’s innocence. They probably do not realize that it amounts to child abuse. Pedophilia in Pashtuns is a huge issue, yet no one talks openly about it. Some of our nationalist (and other Pashtun) leaders are visibly affected by paedophilia. Some of them openly keep a boy for sexual pleasures and it is a taboo to bring it up to them because of their status. Some of their followers have witnessed well-known Pashtun leaders taking little boys to their offices and when we ask them why they did not help the child, they say the boys enjoy it, their parents don’t care so why do we get involved or the pedophiles are related directly to the leader of the party and so on. If people who witness it cannot stop it then who will stop this child abuse?
I remember watching a video in a relative’s house more than a decade ago where political leaders from different parties gathered in a well-known nationalist leader’s “Dera” (a place known typically for men gatherings). A 15-17 year old boy dressed in red color women’s dress was dancing for them. Most of the men were from “well-known” families. The men sat with their legs open, Naswar (chewing tobacco) or cigarette in their mouths and enjoying a dancing boy. The boy would stick his butt out and dance backwards for the men. Who knows what they did to the boy afterwards.
I was young at the time, I watched the video and I didn’t think if something was wrong with it. But when we came home the next day a woman in my house was talking about how it is so shameful for the family and got really angry about the video. Initially, I didn’t ask any questions or cared as much but I thought it was wrong because a boy was dressed as a girl. I did not know what happened to the boy afterwards and why did all these educated brave men enjoy a boy dancing for them while the majority of them had forcefully married their daughters for honor.
However, as a Pashtun, I would not care as much when political leaders from other parties do such things but I get angry when leaders claim to be the followers of Bacha Khan Baba, bring boys to “Dera” and make them dance for them. On top of that, they talk about how big a family they belong to and how brave (Ghairati) they are.
Another nationalist party is allegedly run mainly by pedophiles. Not only the leaders are known for having “Chawkras” (young boyfriend of married men) but there is an office in Quetta that is almost like “Heera Mandi” (red light district in Lahore) for young boys. There is no hard evidence to support this argument, but the word of the mouth is that child abuse is a common practice.
“It is time for us to wake up and fight for children who do not have a voice and cannot speak for themselves” my journalist friend told me and I started thinking about these children who go through child abuse and I asked myself “why do we stay quiet?”. We all know it happens, but still we choose to stay quiet for one pretext or another. Sometimes, family friends and relatives are involved, and we decide to keep mum.
But what happens to these children when they grow up? These children become damaged goods; they may end up being suicide bombers or murderers of innocent people like Mashal Khan, Farkhunda and Zainab.
One of my relatives told me that the family she is married in is related to a man who raped a 6 year old boy in Nasrat, Swat. The rapist was out of jail on bail after they threatened the boy’s father and gave him some money. The whole family knew what he did and when he came to their house after being in jail, they all respected him as if he came from Umrah. One of the other biggest problems is also that the most vulnerable children are the ones from poor families and/or relatives.
Someone from Mardan has recently sent me a story that I cannot discuss in detail, but here is a brief synopsis. A little girl in his distant family was molested by her uncle. The uncle goes to a famous university in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the mother knows about it. The mother of the victim is trying her best to save her from him but she is too scared to tell anyone. Her husband loves his brother and if she tells him, he will kill her along with her daughter but will not believe her words. The paedophile uncle has a good reputation in the family and is considered educated which makes it harder for the mother to speak up against him.
And there are hundreds of other stories about innocent children that I know from friends and families that I cannot share right now. But everyone has to start talking about it because it is time for us to save our children. These children will not grow up normal if we stay quiet because staying quiet means encouraging paedophilia that we have been doing for centuries.
Let’s not be blinded by the political parties and leaders we are involved in/with and I am not asking to leave those parties but at least raise your voices when you witness it.