I hope this memoir is a fable by the time it is revealed to the public as a testament of the days when the country was terrorized by a dark force, petrifying men from all fields of life to the extent that they could not dare to step outside even to get their basic needs. Times were tough, men were susceptible, and women had started to take control. Some as means of sustinence and some to overthrow the rightful balance.
I remember the glory days when things were in order. Men could live and breathe without being stared at head to toe. Late night walks were a thing of joy rather than folk tales. The time when smiling at a stranger was considered courteous rather than predatory, and compliments were received with a smile. Those were the days men learned what a man was, could be and have.
We have been living in dark ages since the force of “The Red Jury” started to gain power. Being the IG of the capital police force law and order was what I was trained to maintain. The most respected member of our community and the most feared by those who couldn’t reach up to our standards. Power, dignity, respect and obedience were things I cherished the most. Ours was a happy family of seven: me, my wife, my two sons and my daughters. All that belonged to me was all that I was grateful for. My fellows praised me for maintaining my family in such an orderly way. I had given them everything they could need. Money, house, maids, car. What else could they ask for? But humans can be ungrateful; they tend to forget where they belong. Like my wife. Or sometimes -probably due to her teachings- the children. But I had a way with my words and actions that made sure they never overstepped their boundaries.
The first incident was not the biggest of our concern. It was almost as if someone had done our job for us so, of course we were grateful. A man had been found hanging in the very street where he had thrown acid on the face of a girl who was on her way to college. The girl was said to be his lover at some point and then after all he did for her, she left him. Those were his reasons. He had been on the loose since a month, living in his neighbor’s basement. Till one day, according to a witness, a womanly figure in red mercilessly dragged him out of his man cave and beat him red and blue till he fainted. He was then dragged through the streets and hung by the neck to a pole in the very same street where he had done the deed. A horrible way to die indeed. But the people were happy. The women cheered, the men observed and a few on both the sides blamed the girl for causing this tragedy. But the girl still had the galls to laugh. It is said she danced under his dead body out of sheer joy of revenge. Our job was made easy. We didn’t complain. Some media outlets wanted to hail the woman in red as a hero; in others she was hailed as a law breaker and barbarian. We couldn’t be less bothered by either of the statements.
But this was a spark compared to the fire that was about to start and spread. A month later, simultaneously on the same day in broad daylight, three men got murdered. They all belonged to respectable families, they were from different cities and none of them knew each other. They had nothing in common. It was a sad day indeed. In each case, the witnesses claimed the murderer was a women wrapped in a big red shawl and baggy clothing. Her face was hidden and all that they could see were her eyes, stained with the darkest kajal. Why would such a mysterious slut commit a murder so heinous? Slitting those poor souls’ wrists and then stabbing them in their manhood. Police were adamant on finding these women. But not twenty four hours had passed when all the major news channels suddenly got hacked and broadcasted a series of video footages nationwide.
Footage of Victim 1: The forty year old victim from Gujranwala was seen kissing a child whose face was blurred. The child tried to stop him but he caressed her with words like; “I am only showing how much I love you.”
Footage of victim 2: The second clip showed the sixty four year old men from Kohat in his mosque. He had stripped a child naked and continued to beat him with his bare hands on places that were rightfully blurred. He kept screaming; “You dare miss another lesson again. This will teach you a lesson.”
Footage of victim 3: The third video showed the twenty year old man from Sukkur. He was making two children, a boy and a girl, sit on his lap while making them watch something on his phone. One of the child had covered her eyes while the other tried to get away from him. The audio of the video made it obvious that it was a pornographic video he was viewing. The man kept kissing both the children on their cheeks every now and then.
The broadcast ended with a sinister and vague message;
“We have hidden ourselves head to toe but we have eyes that watch.”
Such an irresponsible and dangerous act by these murderers to display such a thing on national television for all to see. The kids, the women and even the foreigners. What would they have thought about our country? Did the Red Jury think this was justice? This just promoted the idea of this act to others like these men. This just scared people for the safety of their men. The police placed it on the foremost of their jobs to search for this barbarian group for it couldn’t be the doing of just one person. Or could it be? We had other cases to deal with, rape, murder, theft, assaults. But the necessity of the time was to find these people and bring them to justice.
From then onwards it became a routine. Every other day the headlines would tell of a tale of man that had been beaten for touching a women intentionally in a market place or a man that had been kidnapped for asking for an unfair amount of dowry or a corporate business man whose factory was set on fire for hiding the rape of a female worker in his factory. Over a period of 6 months it turned from a state of anarchy to daily normality. Which was insane! They used to talk about how men were targeted. About how their daily lives were being affected. Families of the affected men used to wailing for justice and those were days of fear and mourning. Until that changed. Until some people started calling it justice served while the desire of revenge was still burning hot. They asked people not to fear because
“What is there to fear if they are not in the wrong.” They even said that the victims were at fault. Had they not been aroused and had they controlled their instincts, had they been sympathetic to those they burned and had they just not taken the compliment as a sign to do whatever they wished to, had they been more humane and had they not undressed so provocatively in a strangers house, all this would not had happened. They were insane!
Completely forgetting these men had mouths to feed, they had their whole lives ahead of them. I even placed all my arguments in front of them on a talk show but the new reform movement leader gave a vague and blunt answer by saying; “Why didn’t they remember that while ruining the life of the person that was their victim.” How this justify what the Red Jury had done is out of this world for me.
And slowly but gradually men started to stay indoors for their own safety. The percentage of male drop outs from schools, colleges and universities increased because families had began to fear for their honor and respect in the society. Females started to hold the position of a bread earner and thus soon people celebrated on their birth. Womanly easily brought yogurt from the market and men begin to learn to cook and clean. Several times the broadcast got hacked to unmask the victims and send messages out to their follower saying things like; “Those who stay on the path should not fear” and other times it preached the converters to make sure equal rights were given to their sons. It was like a new religion taking over the minds of the weak willed.
But until then it was just a show we spectated from above. We made sure we were safe, we were strong and we had faith. The upper class didn’t need reformation. We were advance. We had rights and power and dignity. We were the open minded people. We kept women at easy with maids and cars and house and money. We kept our children safe and we kept each other safe. We withstood the worst. We knew we would survive these disastrous times.
Until one day things got personal. I had a friend named Sajood, a childhood friend. His kids and mine used to play together. Everyone loved him for his soft nature and for his well breed family. He was a man of honor and everyone praised him for that. A man of his words and he knew where his honor lay; in the women of his house that stayed where he wanted them to stay and did what he wished for them to do. It was simple, just and necessary. It was very much needed as well. Every man knows how important it is to keep women safe from the evils of men. Doesn’t matter whether they like the measures we take or not. Our dignity lies in them and that is an honor they should protect with their lives.
I got a call from Sajood’s son that he was missing. A forty three year old man of considerable height and weight missing from his bed in the silence of the night. How and why!? Was it the work of that mischievous group of “justice” again? Or was it someone else?
The search party was released on immediate notice, every suspect was dragged into investigation and every investigator asked to solve his kidnapping case as soon as possible. Four days had passed and everyone was still on their toes until one day, while we hosted his family for dinner at our house to console them, the news channels got hacked again and up came the label of “Live Broadcast.” And there he was. Sajood, my dear friend tied to a chair, eyes swollen and red, shirt torn and the skin underneath turned blue. He was whimpering like a dog! His wife watched intently and his sons lowered their teary eyes in shame. A woman came into view and untied his hand and feet.
“I spare you” she said in a loud voice.
Sajood had frozen with shock and so did all of us. Was it possible he might make it back to us alive? A hero that survived the tyrants…?
She repeated this time louder. “I said I forgive you! Run before I change my mind! Your face disgusts me.” And this time he did what was asked, he turned around and ran as fast as his chubby feet could carry him into the field. Something about that field seemed familiar. It was dark and the camera rolled until he vanished out of view. We were scared, waiting for the broadcast to end. Three minutes had passed since we had last seen his figure on the screen. Maybe it was over? Maybe this was it?
And surely it was. The broadcast ended. His wife lowered her eyes in disappointment and his sons rejoiced hesitantly. After all, how could anyone hail a man a hero after being captured by the red women? God knows what they might have done to him? How badly he must have hurt the family pride and honor? Running in a field like this, semi naked. What honor were they left with in this day and age after the whole nation saw the spectacle he had made out of himself?
Suddenly the broadcast started again in the same field and the same dark of the night. We could hear something and we increased the volume to make it clearer. The voice grew louder and turned into screams, heart wrenching screams. It was my Sajood, running towards the camera. He was screaming “Help Me!”on the top of his lungs. Soaked in his blood, he grew nearer and nearer.
The four gunshots echoed in the valley. Then came the howling and barking of the wild dogs that lanced on his dead body.
The broadcast ended.
Everyone had forgotten to breathe. His wife started at the screen. His sons couldn’t move. A tear rolled down my eye as I said “Ina Lillahe Wa Ina Illaihe Rajeon.”
The funeral was a heavy one. We didn’t know if we would find his remains. An empty casket with his name engraved on it. His wife had not said a single word since last night. Silent without a tear, staring into the void. Sometimes smiling. She must have gone insane due to the pain.
We were about to give shoulder to the casket, when at that very moment police men in uniforms surrounded and blocked my path. I could not understand the reason behind this insolence till one spoke up.
“Sir! You are being arrested on the evidence found that you have been involved in the murder of late Sir Sajood Alam.”
The air stood still.
“How dare you! He was my friend! What evidence! Have you lost your mind?” I screamed, unable to comprehend the situation.
An officer stepped forward with two plastic bags meant to contain evidences, one with a gun in it and other containing pieces of flesh.
“Sir, we found a carcass in a field at the city side and this gun lying in the same field. The DNA matches that of Sir Sajood and this gun is the one licensed under your name. Although there are no finger prints available but in the light of recent events we can’t let this evidence go unnoticed. Given whatever secret Sir Sajood had were probably shared with you because; as you said, you both were childhood friends. Chances are the leakage of such a secret led him into the hands of the Red Jury. You are currently the biggest suspect we have involved in this murder and we have been ordered by the minister to get you arrested on immediate notice.”
Those were the moments I might never forget. The shame, the helplessness. Being handcuffed, driven to central prison and placed in a locker until investigation began. Having my sons watch me get humiliated and my friends sons stare at me with disgust. After being investigated several times ever since, I was presented in courts, judged and talked about on TV shows. But nothing matched to the day when all that I had built crumpled to dust in mere moments. No one stepped forward to help me. Everyone knew I was not guilty but they feared the Women in Red. Some officers went missing since my arrest and some still haven’t been found. My wife visits me time to time and brings along my daughters. My sons hate me for reasons even the court hasn’t been able to prove to be true. I have however, developed a liking towards my eldest daughter who makes sure to let me know nothing in the world can harm me. That I am her father, IG Daud Khan, and she will bring me justice. She makes me feel safe in this time of uncertainty. After two days my final trial will be held. I’ll either be hanged or I’ll be imprisoned for years. I don’t know which one is worse. But I wrote this memoir to let you know that an innocent man died because justice was unjustly served and my lifelong efforts swept away with a single blow because of the Women in Red.
This memoir is being written to let you know about dark and treacherous times. When many women had lost the essence of being a human and men ruled over them. Women were the secondary beings; they had forgotten their rights as an equal human. They were petrified to the extent that they could not dare to step outside even to get their basic needs. Times were tough, women were vulnerable, and men had all the control. Some used this control to help the women of their family and some to overthrow the equal balance.
I had known Hoorain since I was a little girl. She was two years older than me but we were the best of friends as were our families. We used to have sleepovers at each other’s house. We shared a sisterly bond. She protected me, she cared for me and was surely an angle to say the least.
Once when I was fourteen year old we had a sleep over. Hoorain needed some help in her homework so she was with dad but she had taken too long. Mama was sleeping with my aunt in the guestroom. Finally, when Hoorain came into the room she was violently sobbing. Upon my persistent questioning she locked herself in the bathroom. My first instinct was dad might have scolded her so I rushed to his room but as I barged in; he was in a towel, probably changing clothes so I closed the door and ran up after having embarrassed myself.
For three hours I could hear her falling apart within those four walls. When she stepped out she hugged me while shivering all over. I tried asking her what happened but she just asked if I had any pads. After getting her some I consoled her that it’s okay if she got her periods while sitting with my dad. He wouldn’t mind.
Her silence was screaming out for help. But I didn’t know how to help!? She silently cried all night and I could feel the wreck she was becoming.
But when i couldn’t stand it anymore so I threatened I would involve mama if she didn’t tell me. And that was all it took for her to spill. Imagine the internal turmoil I felt as a daughter when she told me that my father had raped her. She begged me not to tell anyone because my dad had threatened her that if she told someone he would tell her father, Sajood Uncle that she tried to excrete herself on him. That she is of age and out of control so he should get her married before she brings the family dishonor. Hoorain was scared for her life because she knew her father would believe my dad and kill her. Thus, she begged me to never tell anyone and like a fool I agreed. Eventually, Hoorain grew to hate man all together and she was justified.
Time dragged by, Hoorain turned twenty five and Uncle Sajood had found her a man. A man of honor and dignity just like her father and my father. Hoorain tried her best to resist but was told it was not for her to decide. She had come to hate men like my dad and her father. Instead she wanted to live an independent life and marry a man of her choice when she finds one. The last thing she wanted was to end up like our mothers who were beaten up or and mentally tortured for standing up to their husbands against their wrong doing. She didn’t want to spend her life stuck with someone for the sake of her children. My sister was once again in distress and she knew not how to escape it. I hated myself more now for not being of use.
But she did escape. We came to know she ran away. Where to? No one knew until my dad came back home one day with a gun in his hand. He took mom to a side and we all stood outside the door to eaves drop. All we could decipher was “I found her”, “Tell them”, “It’s a lesson.”
Mama came out after sometime and made all the girls sit in one place. She made me sit beside her.
“Hoorain has died.” She spoke with a voice that struggled hard not to crack.
“She was shot”
“By her father”
Have you ever felt your sanity spilling out in the form of tears.That is what that moment felt like. My hands began to shiver and my mothered rubbed them between her palms to comfort me. But for me all hell had broken loose.
“Your father asked me to tell you this because he wants it to serve as a lesson. He was the one that traced her. She was working a nine-to-five job and living in a hostel. She was happy in a world she had built and this is how she paid back for bringing her father dishonor. They kidnapped her for four days and tortured her and…”
Mama broke into inconsolably into violent sobs and Just then my father, IG Daud Khan, barged in.
“This stupid woman will never be able to teach you right! Yes! I starved her and beat her up till she vomited blood and I did this over and over again till I tied her to the chair and put her in a field. Her father then said to her;
“I spare you”
“Run! Before I change my mind because your face disgusts me!”
I let her loose and she ran for her life but she had destroyed my friend Sajood’s honor and honorable men can never allow this. We had starving hounds waiting on all four corners of the field and which were unleashed on my command after her! And the bitch ran back to us, screaming for help. And God knows the satisfaction I felt when Sajood finally shot her. We let the dogs feast on her flesh. I had the honour of delivering the last blows to her half eaten cadaver that still had some breaths left in it. And that is exactly what will happen to any of you if you ever disobeyed me!”
Hoorain’s mother never got to know and she still waits to find her at every other turn. At least this is what the men believed.
But Hoorain’s blood washed away into rivers and it cursed every man who drank it to accountability. Her ashes blew into the wind that turned every woman into the Red Jury. Metaphorically speaking.
The women of our family helped Daud khan helped escape a day before his trial by. Mama served him a peace offering sent by Hoorain’s mother to assure him that he was safe and he ate the cooked flesh of his childhood the like a starving hound. He is now reading the final pages of the memoirs he wrote. Only with a bit of alterations from his eldest daughter. Although, I hope he lifts his head up to see us wrapped in red and let the bitter realization sink into every nerve in his body. We were the women in red all along.
In the memory of IG Daud Khan
Killed and mutilated by
the Women in Red.
Laiba Sehrish has previously published a prose and poetry book “Abduction from the Lethe” and runs a writing blog on Instagram. She is currently completing her Masters in the field of Literature.