By Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui
The formation of APMA
- All Pakistan Male Association - with the avowed
aim of supplementing APWA’ s efforts for a
nobler cause could hardly pass as a non-event.
So as the husbands savored their first spasm of
freedom, the begums lined up their forces to scuttle
the fledgling association. And in this subtle male-female
confrontation came a fresh proof of Newton’s
third law of motion - every action has a reaction.
“Bol kae lab
azad haen terae,” came the emotional Faiz
Ahmad Faiz exhortation from a peelay hath enthusiast
at one of the begum get-togethers. Recalling school-day
rhymes, the bewitching speaker poetically waxed
Trust no Future,
Let the dead Past bury the dead!
Act, act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God overhead!
said a portly lady in the chair. “APMA is
tragically on a regressive course. Haven’t
man globally acted on Professor Higgin’s famous
refrain in My Fair Lady,’Why can’t a
woman be more like a man?’ Fifty percent of
prospective scientists in the Soviet Union are women
and we make up forty percent of the US media corps.
The superpower status of the two countries, Ladies,
is a point to ponder.”
As she continued, her buxom frame and charming affectations
betrayed her background. She was a ‘bureaucrat
begum.’ “When we courted marriage, my
silly husband was almost a write-off. His promotion
had been stalled. Papa had to lobby and I labored
to rehabilitate him. He was then a pineapple of
politeness. Perhaps he knew the way to kill a woman
with kindness. It was roses, roses all the way.
Now suddenly he has the audacity to co-launch APMA!”
A young begum, ten years younger than her hubby,
then chose to speak. With a tear in her eye, she
applauded the marriage institution thus: “I
am no feminine iconclast but I do agree that marriage
is a man-made hell on earth where all married women
are damned to suffer.” The petite lady quoted
from a women’s journal to portray her anguish.
“My hubby unfortunately happens to be one
of those cases which are beyond help, medically
or magically. His disposition never improves though
I have tried everything from distemper shots to
She was pretty, pretty as Tahira Syed and every
heart in the gathering appeared to share her grief.
Her marriage had begun with a real coup de foudre
but was now sadly perched on the rocks. Despite
her husband’s joggared, jeaned, and hair-dyed
outfit, the fatherly image persisted. And so did
the mental blocks. The nonchalance was mutual.
The beauty in distress was succeeded by a nouveau
riche begum who prided on transforming a ‘nobody’
into a ‘somebody.’ Regretfully, her
husband remained a great disappointment and passed
his time in ignoble sloth. Every morning, he would
lounge around unshaved after a leisurely breakfast
or listlessly tinker with the car. He faithfully
avoided the ‘right’ circles and little
realized how parties lubricate business. To her
repeated supplications, he had one stolid reply:
“If thou must love me, let it be for naught.
Except for love’s sake only.”
Next, the social worker begum bemoaned her weary
lot. “My husband is a recluse. He is little
known, save as my soul-mate. Yet he jealously disowns
this identity and claims himself a ‘have been.’
You see so many of such have-beens in the US. He
has no exalted opinion of my strivings to usher
a social change but excels in the role of a hermit.
Despite this decided setback, I stick to my task,
clinging steadfastly to Burke’s inspirational
wisdom: “He that wrestles with us strengthens
our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist
is our helper.”
“Bravo,” interjected the lady in the
It was now the turn of the working begum to inspire
the gathering. “I am an absolute drudge with
an eighteen-hour working day, a double-shift performer
so to say. The office boss has his own eccentricities
and so has Mian Sahib. No respite, no rest. And
then I have to put up with the children’s
precocious prattle. Two checks on the first are
some consolation. I wonder who is the weaker sex.”
“Aren’t you the editor of the local
paper?” asked the bureaucrat begum in the
chair. The answer was in the affirmative.
“Have you seen this piece by one of your male
colleagues?” The title was tantalizing. Begums
of the world unite!
“It does make a noble call but the contents
are slanderous,” so saying the weather-beaten
charming she dragon went on to read the article’s
“…seriously, begums in Pakistan, whether
the wives of senior and military officers or of
political personalities in power, are inclined to
think of themselves as national housewives, ordering
people about, enjoying official facilities, treating
their husbands’ PA as their own, and generally
making a nuisance of themselves. Administration
experts say that more than half the corruption in
the country owes itself to their demands and whims.
This may be an exaggeration but I can name half
a dozen members of the defunct CSP who lost their
jobs because of their wives…”
“Outrageous. Many more than six CSPs have
lost their jobs,” fumed her Domestic Majesty.
“Why blame the journalists alone,” interjected
a professor of literature. “Even dramatists,
poets and writers will have to own this impeachment.
Shakespeare had the audacity to claim ‘Woman,
Thy name is frailty!’ Monstrous words. I wonder
what prompted Shaw to resolve to ‘dig him
up and throw stones at him.’ With our unmistakable
gains will someone now seriously attempt ‘Taming
of the Sahib’? We have seen how well men act
Haseena (Moin) could be asked Her characters are
so entrancing!” approvingly observed the portly
lady in the chair as a radiant smile played on her
It was now for the next begum to narrate her woes.
“My husband used to be a plucky, chirpy character
but ever since he came to the States he has transformed
into a dullard. He has long spells of abstraction
and sits oblivious to everything that happens or
passes around him.”
“Good for you,” commented the lady in
“No, a wife needs her husband’s attention
as much as daily shopping at Macy’s and Mervyn,”
the speaker explained.
“We lived in a posh locality in Karachi but
there was no electricity, no water. I believe he
misses Pakistan. There are no blackouts and the
water keeps running in the tap. He would probably
be at home here if we went without water and power.
‘Ab to yahain marna hae,’ he often says
as if coming to the US to die was the sole purpose
of his pilgrimage to this country.”
Meanwhile the scheming husbands got air of the proceedings
and were visibly alarmed. Reformation, nay, retribution
at home again! They couldn’t add to the pleasing
punishment that men so willingly endure. So a few
APMA enthusiasts agreed to approach the begums in
a peaceable way.
“Disband APMA,” came the peremptory
demand as the begums appeared in no mood to be jested
with. Could APMA serve as an appellant group for
erring husbands only? “No, not certainly.
APWA will act to tackle your problems if you try
not to take a tiff,” said the bureaucrat begum.
As the harried hubbies feigned forced courage the
shrewish begum observed: “Just to settle your
nerves let me quote a piece from the Holy Qur’an:
Men shall have the benefits of what they achieve
and acquire and women shall have the benefit of
that which they similarly achieve and acquire.”
Religion has been an encouragement rather than an
impediment to independent enquiry. As she pontificated,
her enfeebled monarch stood beside her like a pet
poodle. He had been superseded during the brief
It was time for the benevolent protectress to act.