The radicalization of Pakistani women begins at home
Less than a week after journalism student Mashal Khan was killed at a university in Mardan, three “burqa-clad sisters shot dead a man near Pasrur in Sialkot after accusing him of committing blasphemy.” While Mashal’s brutal lynching prompted shock and anger across Pakistan, the murderous sisters’ action has elicited little response. Perhaps Pakistanis were too distracted by the long-awaited Panama Paper judgment—or perhaps we as a nation are now so numb to the almost routine instances of blasphemy-related killings that a personal vendetta no longer provokes anger.
The man killed in Sialkot had allegedly blasphemed 13 years ago and had understandably fled Pakistan—given the phrasing of the blasphemy law he would have spent years in prison, at best, otherwise—after which a case under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code was registered against him. After killing him at his home, the three proudly declared that the only reason he was still alive is because they were “too young” to kill him 13 years ago.
The three sisters’ radicalization runs parallel to the case of Naureen Leghari. The medical student from Hyderabad was recently captured in Lahore, where she was planning to stage a suicide attack against the Christian community at the behest of the Islamic State militant group. According to a confession issued by Pakistan’s military, she traveled to Syria, where she joined the militants and got married before returning to Pakistan.
How are Pakistan’s women being radicalized? The conditioning begins at home. Pious parents angered by the West’s war on terrorism or brainwashed by rightwing books and narratives produce our jihadi women. Sialkot has emerged as a particularly vulnerable city. Last year, eight Jamaatud Dawah boys from the city joined the Islamic State in Syria. At the time, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said: “There must be less than… 100, maybe 50, Pakistanis who have left for Syria.” It is unlikely he was including the women who have decided to join the militants as jihadi wives in the Caliphate.