While divorce is the absolute and undisputed Islamic right of a woman, last month in Ghotki, Sindh, which is not under Taliban control, a jirga ordered that the ears, lips and nose of a woman and her parents to be cut off for demanding divorce on grounds of torture by her husband. Such punishment is completely, totally and utterly un-Islamic and no less horrendous than what the Taliban mete out. Where is the State? Where is the famous independent judiciary? Where are the human rights activists? Where are the lawyers? Where is the media? Where is the civil society? Where are the religious scholars? Last month in a place called Kala Dhaka, NWFP, also not under Taliban control, a couple was shot dead on the orders of a jirga for the 'sin' of eloping. Is this punishment any less horrendous than what the Taliban mete out? To get married by choice is also the absolute Islamic right of any adult man or woman and no one can stop it, including parents. An English language newspaper reported on its front page: "The jirga was held on the intervention of the political administration to review its order of killing Alia Bibi and Azeemul Haq, but it upheld its decision and they were shot dead." Political Tehsildar Jamshed Khan told: 'I regret the killing, but what can I do. There is no other law except the jirga system in this area'." No other law? After 62 years? Where's sovereignty? Where is the State? Where is the newly independent judiciary and the rest of the shebang? Why have they not been able to end such barbaric practices? Because jirgas and panchayats have been made part of the system. Parliament should have struck this down for being un-Islamic but it seems that un-Islamic customs take precedence over Islam in this Islamic Republic of ours. It's legalised barbarity is no less than some of the barbaric practices of the Taliban that have been legalised in Swat and Malakand. We don't realise that while the jirgas and panchayats maintain the iniquitous status quo through barbarity, these Taliban too have a limited or no understanding of Islam and use religion as a tool for achieving power. Are we ashamed of tolerating such barbaric practices in the name of custom and for spoiling the name of Islam? No wonder that others consider Muslims barbarians. Legalised barbarity in our rural and tribal areas has been ignored by us, the privileged, because it never touched us. But now that we imagine that Taliban barbarity might soon arrive at our doorsteps we are going hysterical. You think that such people can change society? All we can do is moan in drawing rooms and groan in seminars, columns, television and blogs wondering why our country is going to hell in a hand basket. We raise all sorts of issues but never our class's barbarity. It's because we are still mentally colonised. There is slavery in Balochistan, Sindh and southern Punjab. Everyone knows but does nothing. A Sindhi landlord with his brother and son gang-raped the slave wife of his slave together. Rape is bad enough, but have you ever heard of a father and son raping a girl together for God's sake? They are not even Muslims. Tribal warlords and feudal lords own private jails. Everyone knows but does nothing. Feudal barons marry their girls to the Holy Quran to keep wealth in the family, a very high form of blasphemy against the Almighty. Yet our religious scholars make no hue and cry, issue no fatwas. Everyone knows but does nothing. Landlords make usurious loans to their desperate peasants knowing they can never pay back. When they can't, they take their wives and daughters as if they were collateralised chattel, rape them whenever they wish and keep them till the peasant pays, which means never. Usury is a very grave sin in Islam. Everyone knows but does nothing, not even our religious scholars. Instead, we honour those slave owners, usurers, private jail owners and rapists with high offices. The State and its institutions have been party to all this un-Islamic barbarity, because those who run it are precisely those people who perpetrate this barbarity. We city dwellers too are barbarians because by remaining silent, our time occupied with elitist issues and western concerns, we become party to it. But now that a barbarous group has emerged from among those whom we have perpetrated our own barbarity upon and is about to come knocking on the doors of our mansions and citadels, we the callous and insensitive are going hysterical. It has never dawned upon us that our class was socially engineered by the English to make us mental and intellectual slaves of our colonisers past and present. How could we get rid of slavery in our midst when we are still slaves ourselves regardless of whether we are urban or rural, Oxbridge or uneducated? Now the Taliban will come to 'free' us from our slavery by putting us under their barbarity. Serves us right. If we urban elite don't perpetrate the same kind of barbarity, we certainly tolerate it in our society by ignoring or mutely accepting it. At the end of the day we are all from the same class, urban or rural doesn't matter. We may not own agricultural lands, fiefs or be tribal chiefs, but if we don't have a flat in London as a holiday home we are not top drawer. Many of us give better food to our dogs than to our servants, who work inordinate hours for a pittance. We steal like mad if in government. We steal like mad outside it. We ignore little boys in bonded labour working all day for a few scraps of food, to be sodomized at night by the camp owner. We tolerate children working in brick kilns, not in some hinterland but in Islamabad. But if our child is deprived of air conditioning we go ape. Workers are thrown into the furnaces of these kilns and steel foundries if they raise their heads. To make you better understand what I am saying, let me draw your attention to an extract from an address Lord Macaulay gave to the British Parliament on February 2, 1835. "I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." How did they do that? Macaulay showed the way in his minutes of February 1835: "It is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population." Note the phrase "interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern." These then were the intermediaries between the English coloniser and the natives who helped just a few thousand Englishmen rule such a vast subcontinent for so long. We belong to this engineered class for we are the progeny of these "interpreters" and intermediaries. And we still are interpreters and intermediaries between America and our people for we are still "English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect." Get it? Quite a guy, this Macaulay The writer is a senior political analyst. E-mail: humayun.gauhar@gmail.com