In a bid to present the softer side of Pakistan, The General has restricted all movement of Mukhtar Mai – including any overseas travel. See, the softer side of Pakistan does not include any promotion of the fact that women get gang-raped by community consensus [panchaiyat or jirga] – when they are not bought, sold or killed by the same village elders. I don’t even want to go into the “tradition” that allows men to barter and kill women for their honor and heritage. May the pox be on their houses.
I’ve been sympathetic to Mr. Musharraf till now, despite his nuclear negligence, partly because he’s cooperated in the war on terrorism and partly because he has done a good job nurturing Pakistan’s economic growth, which in the long run is probably the best way to fight fundamentalism. So even when Mr. Musharraf denied me visas all this year, to block me from visiting Ms. Mukhtaran again and writing a follow-up column, I bit my tongue.
But now President Musharraf has gone nuts.
No. He hasn’t gone nuts. He is doing what dictators do. Manage the PR. The best way to combat him is to spin this out of his hand. Send him a note. Write about this on your blogs. Write a letter to the editor. Go to the Rally.
Do see ANAA [the sponsoring group].
update, jun 15: Looks like the PR spun out of their hands. NYT reports that Shaukat Aziz ordered the lifting of travel restrictions. Great news.
update, jun 16: Saurav pointed out in the comments that the great news is not so great. BBC is reporting that her passport has not been returned and that she has withdrawn her visa application from the US consulate. Quite a bad sign. Please do spread the word. Copy my graphic above to your sites and link to this post. I will try and keep it updated.
update, jun 17: June 15th press briefing from the Department of State. Mukhtar Mai has an open invitation from the US, now. Whereabouts of her passport are still unknown. I am guessing that it will be found as soon as The General gets back into town. Such a bad, bad PR move.
update, jun 18: There goes my hope that this was done by chamchas. Looks like The General is making his stand.
update, jun 21: Interview with Mukhtar Mai. It appears certain that she won’t be traveling to the US anytime soon. Meantime, there is no pressure on Islamabad and The General is convinced that Pakistan’s image got a boost from his trip to NZ. Saurav wrote in to remind all that there is a press conference [pdf] tomorrow.
update, jun 28:see my later post