Saira aur Maira
A Tribute to Asma Jahangir
Women in Black-shrouds moving menacingly on stage. A girl, in search of her mother, is frightened to find demonic faces instead.
Scene 2. Seema Jameel’s office.
Saira, running away from her pursuers, comes to seek Seema’s help. Saira reveals that she is from Peshawar and is seeking divorce from her abusive husband but her family is dead opposed to it. Seema asks her associate Rozina to give her shelter in their shelter home Aghosh. Seema also assures mother of Niamat that her 14 year old son accused of blasphemy, will be acquitted. Maira, a flamboyant, colourful character, who has married her brother’s tutor Irshad against her parents’ will, enters. Her marriage has been challenged in court by her father on the grounds that a girl can not marry without the consent of her guardian (wali). She is also living in Aghosh. A journalist, Saafi, follows Maira to take her pictures for the fashion page of his paper and is told off by Seema and her junior. Seema advises Maira how to conduct herself in court. Saira and Maira introduce to each other. Maira and Seema leave for the court. Rozina tells Maira’s story to Sira and is amused to find out that Saira is seeking “divorce by choice” rather than “marriage by choice”.
Scene 3, Court room:
The counsel of Maira’s father’s Mian Moeen, argues that Maira was abducted and there was no marriage. Even if she consented to the marriage, it was illegal and void according to Islamic law. Seema counters by stating that her client is an educated, adult person who wants to take most important decision of her life with her own choice. The law, religion and society give her this right. Mian Moin counters by accusing his daughter of illicit relations and asks for punishment according to Islamic Hudood laws. Maira shouts at her father for alleging her to be adulterous and scolds her mother for not speaking up in her defense.
Women in black prancing around distraught Maira.
Scene 5. Office of Daily Talqeen.
Owner/editor Talqeen Shah is carrying a vilification campaign against Seema and her comrades. He is exploiting the Maira scandal to promote his paper. Mian Moin is paying Talqeen to support his arguments and demonize Seema and her shelter home. Saira’s uncle, Qaiser Khattak, who is in search of his niece Saira joins hands with Talqeen and Moin.
Scene 6. “Aghosh” shelter Home.
Saira and other women in the shelter home talking about their stories. Saira shows them a revolver she has, to the shock of other women. She says this was given to her by her friends for her protection. Women learn that the friend is a uniformed officer and tease her. Maira enters, livid at her parents behavior. Maira and Saira become friends. They all sing a romantic song to cheer up Maira. Seema assures Maira that her stand will be vindicated and she will open the way for many more like her.
Seema finds out about Saira’s revolver and is very upset. She blames Saira’s friend and
asks her what was her relationship with the uniformed friend. Saira tells her story. She says some relations don’t have a name and questions what was her relation to the shelter-less women. Seema responds by reciting a popular folk song about mother and daughters. All join in. .
Scene 7. Seema’s Home:
Seema is supervising home work of her two daughters, her husband sitting at distance, reading a newspaper carrying trashy news against Seema. Daughters are upset about the lyrial court death sentence to young Niamat. They question Seema how could a court give death punishment to a 13 years old boy on false blasphemy. Will you let this happen? Girls father tells them that justice is blind and people like their mother are White sticks and justice follows the direction taken to by these white sticks people.
Scene 8 . Talqeen Office:
Talqeen’s assistant brings the “good news” of Niamat’s death sentence. Mian Moin andzKhattak congratulate Talqeen Shah for his campaign against Niamat. Talqeen tells Khattak that Saira is at “Aghosh” but under strict security. He suggests that Khattak should step up pressure against Seema and his shelter home to force her to give Saira’s custody to the family and file police case against Seema for Saira’s abductionz
Scene 9. Seema’s office.
A lawyers’ leader is convincing Seema to contest election for President of Supreme Court Bar Association. She reluctantly agrees,
Scene 10. Khattak House
Saira’s father Samad Khan and uncle Qaiser Khattak discussing strategy how to reach her in shelter. Saira’s sister protests at the plans to harm Saira. Samad asks his wife to take her inside. The men plan to request for Saira’s mother’s meeting with her endorsed by a senator (a friend of Seema. Saira’s mother asks if her daughter will be harmed but is not told the truth,
Scene 12. Aghosh.
Rozina informs Saira about her parents request for a meeting with her, she agrees to meet the mother alone. She fondly talks about her mother’s love for her and sings a Pashto song titled “My sweet mother”.
Scene 13. Meeting Room.
Khattak family arrives. Mother is told that driver Riasat will accompany her on the pretext that she can not walk without assistance and he is there to support her. Mother and driver enter the meeting room. Mother and daughter look at each other with affection. Suddenly the driver takes out a gun and shoots Saira. Seema enters to see Saira dying and screams: “My daughter”.
Women in black shrouds castigate Saira’s mother and accuse her of being a murderer of her own daughter.
Scene 15. Protest
Demonstration against Saira’s murder. Seema makes an impassioned speech. They demand action against the killers and fight with the police. The women participate in a funeral prayer, in public.
Scene 16. Talqeen Office.
Talqeen condemns women for publicly participating in Saira’s funeral prayers against religious norms. He congratulates Khattak on his success in killing Saira. Khattak says Talqeen should carry on his campaign against Seema so that she cannot pursue the murder case against Saira’s family. Mian Moin also joins in the celebration. Talqeen tells them about court verdict in another choice marriage case of a young girl whose marriage has been declared invalid for want of guardian’s permission. Court also ordered police to continue criminal proceedings against the couple in case of unlawful sexual relations under Islamic Hudood laws. Moin suggests attack on Aghosh shelter. Talqeen promises to mobilise the seminary students.
Scene 17. Khattak Home
People come to condole and congratulate the family on protecting the family honour. Saira’ mother is crying nut Saira’s sister accused her of killing her own daughter. Qaiser Khattak asks them to mourn quietly so that others don’t hear the crying. Police suggests that Qaiser should go into hiding as a murder case has been registered against him.
Scene 18. Aghosh.
Women are grieving at Saira’s death. Maira cries and speaks about her feelings at the loss of her friend. Seema consoles her and promises to carry on her struggle for the rights of women and against “honour killings”. Aghosh is attacked by fundamentalists. Stones are thrown. Seema informs the police, the media and the lawyers community. She then throws the stones at the raiders, and is followed by other women. They all sing a popular feminist song.
Scene 19. Court.
Seema pleads that Saira’s killing was a premeditated murder. Opposing counsel alleges that Seema herself conspired to kill Saira and is falsely accusing the family.
Scene 20. Outside the Court
Seema wins Supreme Court Bar president elections. Lawyers celebrate. celebrations.
Scene 21. Senate
Resolution against honour killing is presented by Senator Ijaz but is rejected by overwhelming majority.
Scene 22. Outside the Parliament
Activists preparing for demonstration outside the parliament, cutting black clothes and wear the shrouds. They demand action against the inaction of the country’s leaders on honor killings and Saira’s murder.
Scene 23. Khattak House:
Saira’s mother wearing Black shawl demands from her husband the location of Saira’s grave so that she can seek her daughter’s forgiveness. Samad tells her that according to custom about victims of honour killings, the grave is without any signs and even he does not know where the grave is. Qaiser Khattak comes to get Samad’s signatures on papers granting pardon to himself and the mother for killing Saira, according to the Qisas Islamic law.
Scene 24. Seema’s House
Night-time The house is besieged by fundamentalist protestors. Daughters are frightened and asks Seema why they are being targeted. Seema tells them that she is a fighter and will continue her struggle. She tells them the history of their maternal grandfather’s house where political stalwarts used to come to meet him. He was a strong opponent of the dictators. She tells them of an incident when the hired assassins sent by a Governor to kill her father but mistakenly shot a visiting journalist. Shouts are heard declaring Seema an infidel. Seema explains that all fighters for peoples’ rights have been accused of being infidels. She reveals that her nikah ceremony was solemnized by the great Islamic scholar and founder of Jamaat-i-Islami, Maulana Maudooodi and the man who resisted the raiders of Aghosh, who included Jamaat members as well, was Maulana’s son Farooq Maudoodi. Daughters are amused by the irony. The attackers are dispersed by the police. Seema’s husband TJ is concerned about the growing campaign and attacks against her but she assures him that she is on the right side of history and they shall overcome.
Scene 25. Court
Court gives historic verdicts, acquitting Niamat on blasphemy charge, declaring honour killing murder like any other, and announcing that the final decision about marriage lies with the boy and the girl and parents can not force them. All celebrate on the landmark judgments. Seema is praised for her successful battle for the rights of minorities ad women.
Moin and Talqeen are unhappy and promise to carry on their campaign outside the court.
Scene 26. Seema’s office.
Niamat and his mother come to thank Seema. Maira and Irshad come to say goodbye as they have to leave the country fearing violent reaction from Mian Moin. Maira says that though her own mother was unable to protect her but Seema had fought like tigress for her daughters. She calls Seema her true mother. After everyone is gone, Seema looks at Saira’s picture and stands at the spot where she was killed. Saira’s spirit appears and hugs her.