Increasing suicide in the hills of Northern Pakistan

By Gul Rehan

Be respectful to women, for they are the mothers of mankind-HazratAli(AS)

Allama Muhammad Iqbal has depicted characteristics of women in his couplet as;

وجود زن سے ہے تصویرکائنات میں رنگ اسی کے ساز سے ہے زندگی کا سوزروں

شرف میں بڑھ کے ثریاسے مشت خاک اس کی کہ ہر شرف ہے اسی درج کا درمکنوں

مکالمات فلاطوں نہ لکھ سکی ، لیکن اسی کے شعلے سے ٹوٹاشرار افلاطوں

Once my friend said to me,’ dwellers of greener land are not warm-hearted and sympathetic’. Has the reader also ever heard of this or imagined so? Or thinks it is just frivolous random thinking? Women may commit suicide in urban areas but not in rural areas at least for an economic reason since there is at least subsistence life. Nonetheless, it may be one of the factors if not all alone.On 29th April 2022, a woman jumped off a bridge with three children in Karachi due to a financial crisis since her husband was jobless. When asked the reason, the woman said, she couldn’t bear the sight of her children starving. Two women also jumped into the river in Ishkoman, Ghizer. HadhratAli(AS) says “bad planning is key to poverty”.

There could be many a factor making one end her life, economic sustainability tops the list.The high cost of living, rising unemployment, real economic growth declining, and shrinking economy are leading life to destitutions and depression, in which it becomes easier to die than to suffer. To avoid economic hardships in today’s uncertain time, family planning has become necessary coupled with women joining the workforce. Our population is increasing exponentially, much of which is amongst the poor segment, engendering many problems-premature births, malnutrition, stunted growth, and lack of access to education.

Losing hope,becoming disappointed and committing suicide are illegitimate in Islam. The path to salvation is prayer and meditation; ‘Oh Allah, when I lose my hopes and plans, help me remember that your love for me is greater than my disappointments, and your plans for me are better than my dreams’. But HadhratAli(RA) also says,” do not run the risk of endangering your life through irrational, unreasonable and extravagant hope”. How good it is for the person (woman) to be contented with little and generous with much. But it is common observation women have become heavily engrossed in unnecessary snob effect within their immediate circle, relatives, and friends, which is one of the causes of conflict in their own family. Modesty is the best jewel of a woman (Fatima Al Zahra AS)

Woman who have become widowed for any reason, neither the state nor the society takes care of them. People in society are acting superficially, they would talk much about women’s character, veil,chaadar and chardewari but would not feel the pain and pangs of hanger and indignation they are going through daily.

The individualistic approach has become the new norm, even though women do not like to help their own folks, the collective living and common welfare perspective has gone far away. Nuclear family has replaced joint(single-parent) family. Men also must realize not to vent out their outside pent-up frustration on their female folks unnecessarily further compounding and exacerbating family relations. The best among you are those who treat their wives well (Tirmidhi). They should be accorded the right to choose a partner, right to inheritance, right to separation(khula), right to access to education, right to work, and career of their choice.Women should be settled in such workplaces or professions that they can carry on easily. Good education, constant training, availability of credit facilities, and support of male family members be forthcoming open-heatedly if one wishes to seek the real solutions to the rising death and suicides of women. But again ‘women are flowers, do not put on them responsibilities they can’t bear’.

A woman’s jihad is to live a good life with her husband.Men are the ones who should support women since God has given some person advantages over others. Unfortunately, daughters are not treated equally to sons, there are also discriminatory attitudes toward them.Daughters are advantages and sons are graces, you will be rewarded for the advantages and asked about the graces.Women is a delicate creature with strong emotions, who has been created by the Almighty God to shoulder responsibility for educating society and moving towards perfection. God created women as symbol of His own beauty and to give solace to her partner and her family. -Imam Ali (AS)

Imam Ali (AS) counts some key points to keep the conjugal relation on a steady course. A woman should show honesty in her behavior, loyalty with regard to property, chastity, reputation, faithfulness, never tells a lie, and never makes life bitter for her and her husband with opposition and discord of any kind.

Helping with sincerity and Islamic spirit those who are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty is indeed the very tool to earn a high abode in paradise. In this way distribution of wealth would reach deserving hands which need it most and society will be an egalitarian one with riches, prosperity, peace, safety, and security of lives of everyone.

As alluded to deteriorating economic condition, life throws wo(man) to many new trajectories of trial and tribulation, physical and mental pains; some natural and few self-invited-bitter marital and family relations of in-laws,lack of empowerment in decision-making and freedom for women, failure in academia,aspiring to a high life, love, unfulfilled dreams, and expectations which result in domestic violence, divorce, honor killings, mental illness, stress.

More than Ghizer 300 suicides were registered between 1996 and 2010 while 64 suicides in Chitral city between 2012 and 2017, while the number of murder cases for the same period was 36, also not to forget the inclusion of Hunza, especially Gojal. By the 20th Century, women’s suicide trend lines were talked about but the beginning of the 21st century saw the addition of males also.This once peaceful valley needs special mention, where there is a rising trend of suicides.It is immaterial to dilate on statistics or pie chart graphics on the ratio and proportion of suicide region-wise, gender, educated, or illiterates. Aside from,it’s the economy, stupid, my focus rivetson the ethno-socio-religio- factor. Some say educated youth are going through rapid social transformation leading to a breach of traditional social contracts,socio-economic dissonance, social disintegration, tearing apart of sociocultural bonds, traditions, values and social fabrics; societal norms held closer and dear to heart by the relatively older generation.

A lot of others say if there is disharmony and dichotomy between exogenous and endogenous conditions in every sphere of life, suicide, and even homicide are bound to happen. With education self-worth, sense and realization, consciousness, and awareness, the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong become clear. When these feelings, meaning, and dignity of living get suppressed, crushed, wrongdoings surpass righteous deeds, angst and hostility seethes about the outside world.

Celebrating globalization, modernity, and market forces brought about by modern technologies and infrastructure is every educated individual’s fundamental right, but not at the cost of uprooting from cultural context and collectivism. People should be intellectually, emotionally, politically, and socially ready, and capable to cope with such changes. Few blame that AKDN intervention brought social change but not corresponding opportunities for self-realization. Somehow still different tribal, pastoral, and patriarchal systems up in the hills have their own understanding, interpretations and approaches to life and livelihood. Few others argue about top-down alienation when one does not get what one deserves due to anomaly in the system and hostility toward ‘others’[women]. This leads to the indigenization of anger, which instills negativity and hate within, and hate is a long form of suicide!!

It urgently requires qualitative, inter-disciplinary research led by experts who will ensure an ethnographic approach to understanding and addressing the issue. For fair stock-taking of suicides, murdering need to be identified clearly. French sociologist Durkheim viewed religious affinity as a source of social cohesion that would decrease the likelihood of suicide, nihilistic tendencies but the menacing trend is contrary to it. Even vocal social activists and journalists are gagged and suppressed from reporting such cases. There is the persuasion of the law of silence, hushing up to avoid infamy to the community and area.

To do away with this pathological coping mechanism-suicide, one need to be strong when strength is needed, be courageous when courage is need, be kind when kindness is needed, be generous when generosity is needed. With reference to our valley, Illiterate women must put their focus on innovation and new techniques of agricultural produce with the help of their male counterparts, because employment creation is not easy in rural areas. While literate and employed people must help other male or female individuals or organizations monetarily. Male should be source of courage and support for females than just enjoying criticisms. Because poverty is the mother of all evils. As Imam Ali(AS) says, “The best of generosity is the help to the oppressed”.Collectivism and communism, unity, social cohesion based on gender equality should be every society’s priority for peaceful existence and progress of its inhabitants.

The writer hails from Ghizer, currently teaches international baccalaureate(IB) in Gulf country and is pursuing her doctorate in Mathematics.

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