By Sonya Rehman
Amna Shariff, an ethnic jewelry designer here in Lahore, comes across as an awfully empowered, independent and strong-willed woman.
There’s something very ‘self-made’ about her, and like her exceedingly intricate, and organic, pure silver pieces – her sense of self, and spirit truly is evident.
Working primarily from home, her little workshop – to serious silver jewelry aficionados – is a treat. With pictures of her work and catalogue up on a soft board, her two jewelry-makers hard at work – sitting cross-legged – as they hunch over, shaping pieces of silver, the room exudes a lovely earthiness, which one immediately wants to be a part of.
Supplying her glorious little ‘wearable art’ pieces to Ayesha Chaudhry’s equally ethnic boutique, ‘Kapray Vaghera’ (in Gulberg), and ‘Khaadi’ (on M.M Alam Road), Amna’s work targets a very niche market.
In a city where heavy gold jewelry and exorbitantly expensive, precious stones are given far more importance than ethnic silver, along with semi-precious stones, the lovers of batik prints, kola puri’s, kajol, summery khaadi cloth, and beaded bags – take to Amna’s jewelry more so than gold sets and diamonds.
Speaking with the jewelry-designer recently, Amna narrated her entire experience the day local police barged into HRCP’s headquarters and arrested every man and woman present during a meeting (held primarily due to the imposition of martial law and the announcement of emergency within the country).
Amna spoke boldly, tracing the events throughout her long and harrowing arrest.
“A night before the state of emergency was announced, I received a SMS about a meeting that was to take place at HRCP – and as a concerned citizen, decided to attend it. When I arrived, there were atleast forty-five to fifty people present who were discussing the current state of affairs and what should be done – basically everyone was fighting and not really reaching an agreement, but then suddenly, someone looked out of the window and announced that the police had arrived”, Amna stated, before proceeding, “soon after, the police broke into the room and stated that we were all under arrest. ‘Show us the warrants, what are you arresting us for’, Iqbal Haider asked the policemen. This culminated into a big fight, and it was soon discovered that there weren’t any arrest warrants!”
‘We’ve been told to arrest all of you’, one of the policemen had apparently stated – and becoming “obnoxious” (as Amna described), the policeman then began to physically push everyone around.
“Initially people resisted”, Amna said, “I told the police not to touch or push me and walked outside where some (who were present at HRCP’s meeting) were already seated in the police buses. Standing near Iqbal Haider, I made sure I never left his side – since I knew he was influential and that he’d be able to protect us. I told the police I wasn’t budging, and wherever he went, I too would go. ‘You can’t take the women alone, I’ll accompany them’, Iqbal sahib had said, and so he accompanied us to the Model Town Police Station.”
Reaching the station, the police stripped everyone of their cell phones and locked them into two rooms – one for men, and the other for women. After a while, it was heard that the men were to be whisked off to the Mianwali jail, and the women to the Sahiwal jail. This news was met with distress and fear.
“We waited till 2:30”, Amna stated, “afterwards, we were informed that some pretty influential people had done some negotiations on our behalf – and since there was already no space in the crowded Model Town jail (which was a terrible, filthy place), the police asked us to volunteer some of our houses as ‘sub-jails’. Dividing us into four groups, and after giving our addresses (which were then sent to the Home Secretary), we had to wait since the list kept going back and forth for approval. Eventually, the houses were allocated – where twenty-four women were to stay at one residence, and thirty-four to thirty-six men in another.”
After enduring a very long wait, Amna stated that everyone arrived at the sub-jails at 4:30 in the morning where they tried to unwind and rest. And the very next day they were informed that each of them had to appear infront of the Magistrate.
“We were taken to the Model Town kachairi – where an FIR was cut. Hoping that we’d be granted bail – we sat back in the buses and suddenly as we drove ahead, we were informed that we were all being taken to Kot Lakhpat jail! Arriving there and then again waiting for three to four hours, with Iqbal Haider constantly telling us to be patient, we were sent back to our sub-jails. Then came the third day hearing of our petition. The paperwork took some time, and the Magistrate took off and said it’d be done the following day but then suddenly, around 6 or 7pm, we were informed that the police who were manning us had simply disappeared. It was all really strange. We were then free to go home and told that the paperwork would be completed the following morning.”
So throughout the entire ordeal, what were Amna’s sentiments?
“There were mixed sentiments – there were moments where we were very scared, but then since there were so many of us in it together, there was an immense sense of bonding…so that emotion was always running high throughout the entire ordeal”.
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