Tallat Azim We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable conditions in which our women have to live (Muhammad Ali Jinnah). Recently, the Peshawar administration banned property dealers and homeowners from renting out premises to women living alone. This, in an ANP government, has come to pass because 26 women living on their own were murdered in the year 2009. Instead of tracing and apprehending those who have committed these crimes and making an example of them to deter more of the same, the administration has thought it easier to simply impose the ban. Na rahe gi been aur na baje gi bansuri, so to speak. It is no secret that, in the obscurantist point of view, women are the source of all evil and the major hurdle between men and their rightful place in the heavens, undisturbed, amidst multiple houri options. The women of this world must, thus, remain wrapped up and as invisible as possible so that they cannot entice or invite men to sin. To combat this mindset, the ANP was voted into power in the Frontier in the last elections. Their manifesto, among other points, has a chapter on womens rights and empowerment. The ANP is committed to ensure that no laws, regulations, policy and code of conduct prescribed and adopted by the state exclude and/or discriminate against women. They are also committed to removing the need for a male guardian in the case of adult women applying for a national identity card. In these difficult times there are so many wom-en who do not have a choice in having to support themselves and their right to movement, to earn an income and exist independently must be defended. Pakistani women remain trapped in a web of dependency and subordination. There are inherent structural impediments that prevent and discourage them from participating in the decision making process and this, in turn, perpetuates their disadvantaged status. Although Pakistan has made commitments at the national and international levels to ensure womens rights, in actual fact, there has not been much improvement in their status over the years. Whenever official steps are taken to impose new restrictions on women, they compound their problems and promote the myth that women are themselves, somehow, responsible for the crimes committed against them. Even the enlightened and moderate ex-president Musharraf once opined that women did not mind rape if it resulted in permanent residences abroad. Despite much trying, that was a gaffe he could not live down. Coming back to the new restrictions imposed in Peshawar, it would have been so much more appropriate to announce that the administration would try and make things safer for women by establishing working womens hostels and being more vigilant. As someone remarked on a TV show the other night: This government immediately starts talking of giving compensation to victims of terrorism instead of making firm and deliberate efforts to follow the trail through to catch the culprits. The same logic has been applied in this case. Just do away with the women living independently and save on the headache of their security. On another note, it is a bitingly cold winter. As we struggle on trying to cope with no gas, no electricity, no security cover, very little water, not even the much-awaited rains - it does seem like the whole system is really stacked aga-inst us. To add insult to injury, the failed bomber from Nigeria, who tried to blow up a plane in the US, has also led to Pakistan being one of the 14 countries whose citizens will be scrutinized really up, close and personal, by the US immigration authorities. It is ironic, indeed, that even as we have an unending stream of high-profile visitors from the United States on a daily basis, (the secretary of state also due again next month), we continue to get the least preferred treatment on an individual level. Postscript: Islamabad is 50 years old this year. The Capital Development Authority, along with the citizens, has drawn up a calendar of events to mark the golden birthday. No longer a small and sleepy capital, Islamabad has definitely developed a personality of its own. The city has spread out in several directions and continues to develop at a fast pace. Apart from the theatrics that happen in politics and in parliament, there are art galleries, theatre shows, well-frequented cafes, markets and parks. A very interesting addition to the city will be made in the first quarter of the year when the art and crafts village, Potohari, spread over 21 acres of land, is inaugurated. It has been designed by Naeem Pasha and will be a multi-dimensional, vibrant showcase of the regions arts, crafts, cuisine and performing arts. The CDA has made the management of the arts and crafts village the responsibility of some of Islamabads able citizens, who have accepted this on a voluntary basis under the banner of 'The Indus Heritage Trust. The arts and crafts on sale and display will change every fortnight so that artisans from all over the country are given a chance to showcase their work. The idea behind this is to preserve all the traditions that are in danger of fading away. There will also be an art gallery and a hostel for the visiting artists to stay while they paint and display their work. The performing arts segment too will be rotated continuously, with folk singers and dancers from all the regions of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir getting their turn according to the calendar of activities. The Potohari has the potential of becoming one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. May all the clouds of uncertainty that hover over us, blow over and may we too find our rightful place under the sun and in the comity of nations - Amen. The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com