These iconic verses by the Mohajir feminist writer Azra Abbas return us to the affective contours of the loss, migration and rootlessness that (re)materialised in the Mohajir community in political subjectivities, sensibilities and experiences of violence with the state during the conflict. Developing previous discussions on identity, gender and the legacy of Partition, especially in relation to men, we turn now to consider their re-articulation and embodiment in some narratives of Mohajir women, through the gateway and initial lens of Yasmeen’s story. Yasmeen, a widow and mother of five when I met her, had migrated by train from Agra to Karachi in 1948 as a young girl with her mother and two brothers. Her father, a deputy police superintendent in the British Indian administration had secured an equivalent job in Karachi. Initially the family lived in government accommodation in Raja Mansions near Civil Hospital in the Burns Road area. After her father’s retirement they moved to Liaquatabad. Yasmeen married her cousin at 17; after the mid-1970s, they rented apartments in our building from my husband’s father. After a long illness, her husband, owner of a local garments factory, died leaving her debts and a paltry legacy. She supported her growing family penuriously thereafter by selling hair removal powder and kharaiyaan (sundried, crushed lentils) door-to-door. Her two eldest sons joined MQM as teenagers and ‘worked’ to set up rallies, help in the Unit offices, collect ‘donations’ as well as contribute to the household. Yasmeen visited our apartments daily and, in my struggles to accept my relative confinement in Lalukhet’s rather conservative Mohajir society, I returned regular visits. Yasmeen was a key figure in my enculturation into women’s lives. She also corrected my Urdu, instructed me in more comely ways of conduct (‘Tuck your feet away!’) dress (‘Arrange your scarf like this, aise!’), in adornment (she accompanied me on one rather grand trip to the local Daisy beauty parlour for painful exfoliations) and

instructed me in the finer intricacies of temperature in chapatti making. Several times when my young daughter had wandered outside, it was Yasmeen who investigated and returned with a ‘Kya bat hai, fiqr nahi karo!’ (‘What’s wrong, don’t worry!’) – she had walked to the sweet shop by herself, could I believe it, just a year old, or gone into Bismillah’s or Shabana’s or Iram’s house, or with Hakim to see his visiting auntie, or with Tausif to buy a Frooto drink and cake. Our friendship also taught me important emotional lessons. When, in response to frequent requests to take a walk I was invariably advised by my (otherwise adored) mother-in-law that, to avoid gossip, I should wait for my husband to accompany me, after dinner, in a few hours, I would frustratedly protest to Yasmeen ‘How can you bear it, I can’t manage, it’s too difficult’. She would remind me of the importance given in Islam to the virtues sabr (patience) and shukr (gratitude) and of containing my feelings. Or, when I became anxious about our seeming lack of future plans, respond ‘Allah jane, sub teek ho jayega, pershan nahi ho’ (God knows, all will be well, don’t worry). This latter was perennial advice that was sorely tested when in 1995 both my mother-in-law and Yasmeen were forced to abandon their homes, and Yasmeen’s sons were imprisoned, leaving her, widowed, homeless and alone in her fifties, entirely at Allah’s mercy. In the public space of Karachi’s conflict, women’s experiences and subjectivities may, in line with ubiquitous studies of patriarchal gendered power relations, be seen in opposition to the ‘honourable’, ‘defensive’ and culturally desirable violence of their male counterparts. In such framings, Mohajir women’s experiences reiterate – and were constructed to represent – an ethnicised, naturalised discourse of non-violence, passivity, domesticity and peripherality to male worlds of violent action. Women were passive, vulnerable and in need of the protection of honourable men. The forms of male honour izzat and ghairat involving men’s culturally prescribed position in relation to women are central constituents in narrative and analytical framings of social and personal realities in Pakistan, and of violence. Whereas the term izzat derives from the Arabic izza (might, standing, glory) and implies social reputation and wealth, the term ghairat refers specifically to sexual propriety and the guardianship of desirable resources such as women, gold and land (zan, zar, zamin). Although izzat is tied to material wealth, its language and expression are inscribed in the speech, behaviour and mannerisms of the female body (ghairat). Female sexuality is tightly pinned to communal honour and politics in many patriarchal Pakistani societies, wherein from ‘the first drop of her menstrual blood, every Muslim girl becomes a temple of her family’s honour’ (Minai 1981:100), a repository of the ghairat of the men and community who have rights over her – and thereafter significantly confined to the purdah of her chador aur char divari (veil and four walls). Honour ‘traditions’ dictate that women may be killed for transgressing the sexual conditions tying them to a man for life, or traded in marriage as compensation to injured parties. The tendency to read male practices of violence as derived from the male rituals and manners of honour that promote hegemonic discourses of (militaristic, self-sacrificing, violent) masculinity and (weak, vulnerable, non-violent)

female passivity, ignores the diverse ways that women construct and are constructed as subjects of male enterprises in honour (Abu Lughod 1986), as well as the profound suffering and ‘victimisation’ of men in conflict. First, although the force and trajectory of political violence was overwhelmingly the result of a male enterprise, Mohajir women were central to discourses rationalising male violence and also endorsed and idealised male violence. Second, although women can be seen as caught up in a male-led conflict over which they have little control, this critique denies ways that women carried many burdens of the conflict and were innovative in constructing modes and media of protest and survival. Discourses of feminist change were not central to the politics of Karachi’s conflict as they were in Northern Irish republicanism (Aretxaga 1997), or in Mumbai’s Shiv Sena where Sen (2007) locates women’s political subjectivity within the contours of a violent ‘counter-victimology’ shaped by discourses of the state, nationalism and feminism. Nonetheless, Mohajir women’s experiences show how conflict reproduced and reinforced the state’s militaristic power and women’s subordination to men, but also how women could be powerful active agents in resisting the physical and symbolic threats posed to their survival and cope with disruption to everyday life, often more effectively than men. Whilst women coped admirably with the family difficulties that were exacerbated by their sons’ recruitment to violence outside the home, with increased financial and domestic burdens and with the police targeting of their homes, even powerful agentive acts reinscribed women’s subordination cumulatively within conventional framings of gendered power relations. Although Mohajir and Karachi society has subsequently undergone significant transformations, in the 1990s lower-class Mohajir families generally typified conservative accounts of societal patriarchy in Pakistan. Social arrangements ensured women’s primary role was domestic and maternal (Papanek 1990:162), women were largely confined to private spheres, and social structures institutionalised behavioural codes which enforced patriarchal power through gender segregation and men’s control of women’s virtue (Moghadam 1992:37). Subtler forms of male domination assumed a ‘natural’ appearance and the gender order in institutions made it unquestionable that men should dominate in public spheres. The social world was masculine and tied to the inferiorisation of women in the legitimised authority of social patriarchy, Islam, the state and state militarism that was continually being reproduced, overtly and symbolically, in contexts such as the repressive presence of military personnel on the streets, the authoritarian control of fathers in families and, less ‘legitimately’, in the widespread rape of women by the police (Abbas and Askari 2003). As well as individual, honour in these contexts is communal and collective and tied to the gendered status of the nation. It is here we see at work, to cite Das, the transformation of cultural norms of purity and honour into practices that shape the state as masculine: ‘the notion of national honour and the preservation of purity of the population through which the sexual contract is made the grounds for a social contract that institutes the nation as a masculine nation’ (2007:25), and that attacks on male honour via the rape of women become attacks on the Mohajir nation.