My feudal lord:
The book ‘My Feudal Lord’, – written by Tehmina Durrani of Pakistan (first published in 1991) qualified to be her autobiography. Though quarter of a century old, the book is still relevant in today’s Pakistan. It covered mainly the turbulent period of her second married life spanning about 15 years (from mid seventies to late eighties of last century). Tehmina was from a rich and very respectable family of Pakistan. In the book she has briefly described her childhood about the overbearing mother, father’s submissiveness before mother, schooling and her first marriage.
The book’s main storyline revolved around her very difficult and weird phase of second married life. Tehmina, first married to a middle class husband, was attracted by a four time married powerful feudal PPP leader named Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Khar was double her age. After some period of extra-marital sexual relation with him, Tehmina divorced her first husband and married Mustafa Khar. In the process, she lost her property right and custody of daughter. All along the book, Tehsima was honest and even told about her weaknesses, deceit and guilt feelings about her first husband and last wife of Mustafa Khar, whom he divorced contemptuously to marry Tehmina.
The book not only gave glimpses to the social and familial values and practices of her family in Pakistan but also made one confused about the peculiar mind set of her parents (owning and disowning her alternatively) even when they were expatriates in UK. The book also exposed the inherent insecurity and helplessness of married women even in high society of Pakistani.
The focal point of the book was Tehmina’s second husband (Mustafa Khar), a pathological, canning, selfish, manipulative, liar and ruthless feudal Pakistani politician whose integrity towards her (and other wives before her) was as hollow as his integrity towards party followers and Pakistan. Mustafa had the unique ability of telling lies in such a convincing way to make those appear as truths.
Mustafa Khar was not a petty politician. Khar was right hand man of Z A Bhutto in PPP. He was Chief Minister, as well as, Governor of Punjab. But in bad time he did not hesitate to dump PPP and Bhutto to earn safe passage to UK by striking some deal with Zia’s government. When in exile in UK, Mustafa Khar kept clandestine contact with Indian Intelligence agency and even visited India twice.
Sexual infidelity was the other name of Mustafa Khar. He even sexually exploited youngest minor sister of Tehmina for three years in UK. And on being exposed, mother of Tehmina simply pushed the matter under the carpet for the sake of some vague family name. Mustafa was an animal in human guise.
Mustafa abused, subjugated, tortured (mentally and physically) and exploited Tehmina by using his Pakistani feudal attitude and practices to which we are not conversant. Mostly he treated Tehmina as a commodity and not a human being. Even in UK also Mustafa treated the Pakistani female family servant most inhumanly by beating and kicking her for any small mistake. Servant’s life was worse than that of a bonded labourer. Mustafa’s interpretation of Islam was too convenient for him.
Tehmina was much closed to all her children. She could never forget her daughter from first marriage. The maternal love for children was at times very overpowering for Tehmina. She faced two emotionally devastating periods in her life when she divorced her first husband along with losing the custody of daughter and when Khar abducted their three children to teach her a lesson and bring her back to his feet. Her emotional attachment with children was in sharp contrast with that of her mother who was palpably blunt towards her during childhood.
The best part of the book was fabulously inspiring when Tehmina could find her inner strength to fight Mustafa Khar and ultimately divorced the perpetually abusive and mercurial person. She did not bother much about the financial loss and lose of custody of children. The so called social stigma attached with such divorce from wife’s side (Khula) in Pakistan could not deter her to get freedom from the monster.
It, however, took three attempts on her part to dissociate her life from Mustafa Khar. The first attempt was neutralized by Mustafa after he signed a legal agreement allowing Tehmina the power to divorce him and her sole right of custody of children. The second attempt was foiled by Mustafa through abduction of three children from her and sending them to Pakistan. The drama ended in a sad manner when Tehmina was compelled to go back to Mustafa for the sake of getting children back. After that the Khar family ended the exiled life in UK and returned to Pakistan. In Pakistan, Tehmina even acted like a political representative of Mustafa when he was behind the bar by Zia government. That part of her life was comical.
Mustafa Khar in his behind-the-bar tenure also did loom large on the life of Tehmina. His carnal drive even in prison did not spare Tehmina when she was recovering from a major Uterus surgery. That painful and humiliating incident traumatized Tehmina to the extreme. But she still hopped that she would be able to save her marriage. Tehmina ran from pillar to post to release her husband from jail. Mustafa came out of Jail after 2 years and straightway started the second innings of extramarital sexual life with youngest sister of Tehmina. When the last hope was gone, Tehmina went for divorce (Khula) from her side. Ultimately Tehmina could cut off the demon from her life.
As a human being, Tehmina felt it prudent to come out openly in this book about the darker side of her personal life as a common cause for all Pakistani women like her. The book was not any trash about ‘women’s lib’. Tehmina tried hard accepting all sufferings and humiliations at the hands of Mustafa Khar to save her marriage. When she could take no more, she revolted and went her own way. Any reader, not familiar with the married women’s life in an outwardly civilized but male dominated feudal community of Pakistan, would get shock in almost every page of the book but would have to appreciate the mental strength and perseverance of Tehmina at the end.
‘Islamic morality’ is a myth. The Chaddar and Chardiwaari used to protect ‘Islamic morality’ are deceptive. The term ‘Islamic morality’ unilaterally takes Islam to a very high level of fictitious moral purity and piousness particularly in contrast with Western world. The propagators of ‘Islamic morality’ describe Western world as a den of moral degradation where failed marriage, infidelity, divorce and emotional trauma to the children of divorced parents are rampant. Such one sided description projects ‘Islamic morality’ in an absolutely just manner and rejects the presence of all the above mentioned moral negativities in Islamic society.
The proponents ‘Islamic morality’ actually show a Goebbels’ endeavour where publicity and faith make something untrue as true. To quote Goebbels: “It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.” The book has actually beaten the ‘Islamic morality’ into pulp without naming the term. It has vividly described that all the publicized immoralities of the West have been present in Pakistani feudal society. On the top of these immoralities, the legal protection for women in Pakistan in terms of their capacity to give divorce and financial claims following such divorce has been next to nothing. The second major book of Tehmina entitled ‘Blasphemy’ (1998) has further exposed the hypocrisy of “Islamic Morality’.
PS: For the information of visitors, Hina Rabbani Khar the Ex Foreign Minister of Pakistan is a niece of Mustafa Khar. Mustafa Khar’s son Bilal (not from marriage with Tehsima) threw acid on the face of his wife. Tehsima took the victim to Rome where a series of surgeries were done on her. The poor woman simply could take no more and committed suicide one day by jumping from the balcony of hospital. Bilal went scot free.