women on the streets. Below: Victim Mukhtaran Mai receives a donation
Must Apologize to Pakistani Women
Special to the South Asia Tribune
DELHI, September 24: No head of a country, no matter how backward,
has ever fouled the image of his own country’s fair sex
like General Musharraf has done in the eyes of the American public
through the Washington Post this month.
shocked the people at large when he told the newsaper, and later
denied, that women in Pakistan get themselves raped to make money
and go abroad. His exact words, when asked about the safety of
women in Pakistan, were: “You must understand the environment
in Pakistan. This has become a money spinning concern. A lot of
people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada
or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”
faced with hostile reaction to this statement, he coolly denied
he ever made it. “I am not a so silly and stupid to make
comments of this sort,” he told CNN. General Musharraf should
have known that Washington Post could not have taken
this interview without recording it. It, therefore, countered
his denial by saying that the Head of Pakistan made this statement
about his country’s women in front of three other journalists
and all that was recorded.
Musharraf also made a puzzling statement to the effect that he
gave $50,000 to Dr. Shazia Khalid to leave Pakistan for Canada.
She was raped while on duty in the Sui Gas Plant in Balochistan
by an Army officer. Before an inquiry commission could give its
verdict General Musharraf pronounced the Army officer innocent.
she was crying for justice intelligence agencies forced her to
leave the country. She forcefully denies having received money
from General Musharraf. But if we accept General Musharraf’s
claim that he gave her 50,000 dollars to leave the country, the
question arises why on earth should the Head of State pay a wronged
person to disappear from the country when she and her sympathizers
were demanding justice for her.
nationalists said dishonoring a woman on the soil of Balochistan
violated their social norms. When they became violent demanding
action against the rapists, the Head of State warned his Baloch
countrymen that it was not 1973 when they went up the hills. This
time they would not know what hit them, he said. Was he hinting
at testing the efficacy of his missiles on Baluchis? In the past
58 years they have already faced twice the air power of the Army.
In 1973 armed Baluchis had taken positions on mountains when the
military began a crackdown on them on orders from then Prime Minister
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
General Musharraf told an international women conference in Islamabad
that Pakistan should not be singled out for the crime of rape.
This was happening in other countries including European countries
as well. But only Pakistan was accused of it by NGOs, he bemoaned.
He had told Washington Post “rape is happening
everywhere.” He had seen figures about rape in the US, Canada,
France and Britain, he said.
cannot contest this statement. But what makes Pakistan different
from other countries is the virtual institutionalization of rape
through the controversial Hudood Ordinance and the indifference
of the authorities to the victim’s plea for justice. Hudood
Ordinance makes it near impossible for a raped woman to get the
rapist punished because she is asked to produce four pious eyewitnesses.
she is herself punished for this rape because she cannot find
four pious eyewitnesses. Since General Zia-ul-Haq’s rule,
when this Ordinance was promulgated, thousands of women have suffered
long jail terms for complaining to police about their rape.
Musharraf cannot name any other country where the gang rape of
an innocent woman (here Mukhtaran Mai) is ordered by a Panchayat.
There is no civilized society in the world where (in Sahiwal)
a woman’s leg is amputated on charges of illicit sex. Can
General Musharraf name a country where a girl of a minority community
is kidnapped and forcibly made a Muslim and married to an old
man – as happened in Jacobabad in Sindh. Sapna is not the
only non-Muslim girl to have been so snatched away from her helpless
wailing parents and community.
may not find another example of a case like that of Sonia Naz.
This young lady entered the National Assembly to seek justice
when she exhausted all efforts to get her husband released from
the clutches of the police. The National Assembly called her a
“stranger” and handed her to police. The police ravished
her. The rapists were led by an SP who has a bad record but enjoys
the patronage of Punjab Chief Minister Pervez Elahi. Sonia’s
trauma didn’t end there: her husband, for whom she underwent
all this trouble, divorced her saying it was shameful for him
to live with a gang-raped wife. But Sonia alleged the police forced
him to divorce her.
organizations have persistently demanded that General Musharraf
prove his adherence to his highly publicized call for “enlightened
moderation” by freeing women from the Hudood Ordinance.
But even if he wants he cannot for the fear of Mullahs.
the contrary, by his statement to Washington Post he
has betrayed a mind set typical of male chauvinist semi-literate,
anti-feminist tribal chiefs and feudals, who are responsible for
killing of hundreds of women every year in the name of family
home General Musharraf will have to do a lot of damage control.
The best course will be an honest apology to the women of Pakistan.
writer is Director, Institute for Media Studies & Information
Technology, YMCA, New Delhi and a former Editor of UNI