My dear honourable Shabnam,
You must be hearing the uproar in Pakistan about the dacoity case at your house, some 40 years ago. I am not sure how you view it. Perhaps it might have scratched some old wounds, perhaps it disturbed you a lot, perhaps your heart might think you had buried it long ago and now when you were almost over it why is it all coming back again. You are far from us and I am not able to hug you and express my support, but I want to tell you through my letter that you are still very close to us, in our hearts and in our lives.
Please consider the recent uproar on our social media about the rapist and dacoit, Farooq Bandial, as evidence of how much people love and respect you and how angry they still are with that disgusting creature. It all goes to show that Pakistani people still hurt for all the pain you had to go through. Even though Zia ul Haq’s regime and the influential elite protected the rapist, the people have spoken and he has been subjected to the humiliation that they thought he long deserved. Everyone talks about you with respect and love and most of all the honour that you deserve as our legendary artist and a wonderful human being. It is he who has lost his honour (izzat), then, and now.
Rape is something we women, who go through it or work with rape survivors very closely, know takes a long time to heal. It remains fresh if you keep pushing it away and try to suppress. The most effective way to deal with it is to keep facing the pain and allowing yourself to heal. Of all of us who go through this pain, many heal. Perhaps this is an opportunity for you to heal together with your larger family, the Pakistani society. I cried today for your pain and our collective pain that we women have to go through. Please know that we hurt for you and we miss you.
It is unfortunate that rape is not taken very seriously by our society, especially by those in power. Our political parties are still immature, and all have rapists, as well as very good people, in them. They do make such mistakes, sometimes knowingly, braggingly and sometimes unknowingly. They put such dishonorable criminals in positions with power and authority to lord over us. There are ignorant people who support such deplorable rapists and still blame the women. They do not want to use even the new Urdu term for rape, zabarjinsi and keep calling it ziaditi, but we hope to educate them. I want you to know that the majority of our people denounce this crime. With you, they have such a strong bond of love that they will never forgive your culprit and I hope that they are similarly non-forgiving about the culprits of other women survivors.
If this is an opportunity to heal, then let’s heal together. We were very grateful to you when you and your husband returned to Pakistan and later when you came again. We felt that you both had given us respect. We would love for you to come back yet again, for a visit or for good. This is your home and we love you. Facing our fears and pains together, perhaps we all will heal and move forward. We want you to start acting again and enjoy Pakistan as your home. Any government should give you a post of stature so you could contribute to our progress. You are our pride and we love you.