TEHMINA Durrani is a survivor in a country where women are not considered full human beings under law and men have more balls than brains. She wrote My Feudal Lord, and revealed the violence and cruelty she experienced at the hands of her feudal-politician husband. She has good looks and brains. She writes books, paints and sells her canvases to the rich in Lahore. She formed a short-lived political party whose male members were all mesmerised by her. She knows she provokes and seduces the Pakistani man by being an "intellectually challenging" female.
Her latest novel is titled Blasphemy, to coincide with the national pastime of persecuting the non-Muslims under a defective insult-to-the-Prophet law. It is linked to the account of a woman who insulted the feudal-saint hero and was killed for "blasphemy". The novel tells the true story of a girl who was packed off as a 15-year-old bride to a 37-year-old custodian of a religious shrine in south Punjab. The man had killed two wives earlier through acts of savage copulation.
Pir Sain is Count de Sade of the feudal countryside where boys sodomise each other when not deflowering donkeys. God speaks through the feudal lord whose temporal power is supplemented by his direct descent from the Holy Prophet and invitations from Islamabad to attend "holy" conferences held to shore up military dictatorships and Muslim League governments.
Pir Sain's brothers suffer from the same disease, bedding underage maidservants and their own daughters. Heer the heroine is thrashed regularly by Pir Sain, made to sleep with yokels and filmed on the VCR, offered as a courtesan to his guests from the city. Pir Sain watches his girls gang-raped by teams of selected boys from the village after making them drink the sex serum given to horses before mating. When Heer's first son grows up he 'blasphemes', by sleeping with the girl his father was using for quirky sex; her second son marries a girl fathered by Pir Sain. Heer appears in countless blue movies made by him to arouse his guests. There is lesbianism intertwined with bestiality and endless fornication. Priapus is God disguised as an Islamic pir.
Tehmina Durrani's earlier book about her copulating-assaulting feudal husband was translated into Urdu but caused no trauma among Pakistani readers. Pakistan's political and social elite is known for its boundless sexual drive. When the assemblies are in session, stocks of smuggled foreign alcohol disappear from the market. Bacchanalias are held in the assembly hostels, and stars of a bankrupt film industry live off the sons of the Pir Sains of Pakistan.
Clerics with ambition to rule rail against this debauchery but their own behaviour is no different. Clerics are routinely caught indulging in the most unholy of acts. Cities are full of saints who pretend to be holy men curing women of barrenness through holy coitus. Some of them become so widely revered that they lay claim to prophet-hood. Reputed mullahs and imams provide the services of halala (temporary consummated marriage to allow a woman to marry her divorced husband again) then refuse to surrender the woman. Police officers in Lahore expend their libido on unwilling prostitutes of the Red Light Area under duress. Men are superior to women by faith and all of them express their dominance through sex. Everybody is a stud.
This is what the novel captures. Badly written, badly printed with scores of grammatical and spelling errors, it rivets because you know it is the story of a woman who actually went through it all. Pakistan will take the book in its stride. It will feel offended when it is published abroad and enemy countries like India are afforded the luxury of gloating over it. But the male discussed in it is not much different from the male in India; only Pakistan has intensified the priapic syndrome after 1947. The reduction of the status of women under the so-called Shariah has led to more gang-rape. Raped Afghan women who escape from Kabul to take refuge in Pakistan are maltreated because they rebelled against an Islamic government.
Under the Rape Law a woman has to bring four pious Muslim eye-witnesses to prove that she has been raped. Politicians, intellectuals and judges cry out for more Shariah which will do away with the residual past reforms aimed at improving the status of women. Tehmina Durrani's book hopefully will hopefully provoke debate on this U-turn.
(The writer is editor, Friday Times, Lahore.)