WASHINGTON DC, June 23, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Rice Snubs Musharraf Over Mukhtar Mai Episode

By M T Butt

ISLAMABAD, June 23: In one of the most humiliating snubs to the hot-headed Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally intervened to ensure that Musharraf makes his latest U-Turn, this time on the popular issue of allowing gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai to visit the US.

Musharraf had just recently claimed during his Australian tour that he himself had stopped Mai from leaving Pakistan because he could not allow any one to damage Pakistan’s image abroad. Mai, he said, was going to bad mouth Pakistan, pushed by western NGOs, which he had equated with terrorist organizations.

“That was the most undiplomatic and most ill considered statement Musharraf had made as what he actually did was damage Pakistan’s image many times more than what Mai could have done,” a Foreign Office source told the South Asia Tribune. “But Musharraf speaks without thinking and now it has become a trend that he shoots from the hip whenever he gets trapped into a corner. That damages Pakistan.”

Secretary Rice’s intervention has come in such a forceful manner that Musharraf and his officials are now looking for excuses and cover under any fig leaf as they have been made to eat humble pie with the entire world shocked watching their stupidity.

“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice secured a personal pledge from Pakistan that gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai will be allowed to visit the United States,” US officials said on Tuesday. Rice's personal intervention came after The New York Times reported that the Pakistani Government still had Mukhtaran’s passport, despite lifting a ban on her traveling last week.

Unnerved Pakistani officials were embarrassingly claiming there had been no US pressure in the case of Mukhtaran, something which adds insult to injury and reflects the stark helplessness of the Pakistani junta when faced with pressure from Washington.

This Pakistani lie was nailed instantly by State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli, who said on Tuesday the issue was raised last Thursday by Rice, in a telephone call with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri.

"Secretary Rice made it clear that the Mai was welcome to come to the United States at any time and that we were looking to the Government of Pakistan to ensure that she was free to travel whenever she wanted," he said.

"The Government of Pakistan has committed itself to that and therefore it is our expectation that should the Mai want to travel, to come to the United States, there will be no obstacles presented to her to do so," Ereli said.

Mukhtaran’s case arose again on Tuesday when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote his second op-ed in a week on the subject, stating that initially he may have been wrong by calling Musharraf “nuts” but when the Pakistani General admitted that he personally stopped Mai from going abroad, the General had proved that he actually had gone nuts.

The childish manner in which the military rulers tried to fool the world by announcing that Mai had been put off the Exit Control List but at the same time they confiscated her passport was blasted by New York Times.

The same issue was raised by Condoleezza Rice with Kasuri. But a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity that US officials believed that one of Mukhtaran’s minders or bodyguards had her passport.

"Whoever has her passport, there is not going to be any obstacle to her traveling to the United States," the official said. "Her freedoms, and her rights and well being are what we are concerned about and we are going to act to protect those."

The claim that Mai’s passport was with her bodyguard was another of the lowly tricks Musharraf’s men played. While they were claiming that the passport had been returned, Mai herself was on air with world famous human rights activist Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now” Radio and TV channel in US saying her passport was still with the Government. Read Full Text of Amy Goodman's Interview or Listen on Real Audio

The next trick in the bag of these out of control Pakistani men is to use the courts to keep Mai in Pakistan. The Supreme Court suddenly has decided to hear her case and Mai told Ami Goodman she will have to stay in Pakistan to fight her legal battles in the highest court of the country.

But the Supreme Court is also in a tight corner. If they let go the rapists of Mai, Pakistan’s image will be damaged beyond repair and it will then be interesting to see how Musharraf reacts to that damage.

If the Supreme Court convicts the rapists, Mai would have successfully challenged and won against the men and the system that violated her. She would then visit the US with an additional pride that her country’s judicial system did work for her.

But it is just beyond the vision and capacity of the Generals to think about such a scenario.

Whatever the court decides, Mai has now become an international celebrity and whenever she visits Washington, she will definitely be a guest of President George Bush at the White House.

She would then have to thank the hot-headed General Musharraf for making it possible by issuing stupid statements. Read the Text or Listen to Ami Goodman's Interview with Mukhtaran Mai

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