Sunday, June 19, 2005

Update on Mukhtaran Bibi: free at last (sort of)

Those of you who have been paying attention to the story of Mukhtaran Bibi -- I previously wrote about it here -- and even those of you who haven't (but should) will be happy to hear that this incredibly courageous woman has finally been freed by Pakistani officials. Sort of. Nicholas Kristof follows up here:
President Pervez Musharraf's government is still lying about Ms. Mukhtaran, saying that she is now free to travel to the U.S. Well, it's true that government officials removed her name from the blacklist of those barred from leaving Pakistan, but at the same time they confiscated Ms. Mukhtaran's passport.

And, yes, President Musharraf -- one of our "allies" in the war on terror -- is himself to blame for this:

[W]hen Pakistani officials learned that Ms. Mukhtaran planned to visit the U.S. this month, they detained her and apparently tried to intimidate her by ordering the release of those convicted for her rape. This wasn't a mistake by low-level officials.

Mr. Musharraf admitted to reporters on Friday that he had ordered Ms. Mukhtaran placed on the blacklist. And although Pakistan had claimed that Ms. Mukhtaran had decided on her own not to go to the U.S. because her mother was sick (actually, she wasn't), the president in effect acknowledged that that was one more lie. "She was told not to go" to the U.S., Mr. Musharraf said, according to The Associated Press.

"I don't want to project a bad image of Pakistan." he explained.

A bad image? I wonder how anything could be worse than the image of Pakistan that Ms. Mukhtaran's story presents to a world that -- let's face it -- doesn't really know much at all about Pakistan. Kristof says that "Pakistan is one of the most hospitable countries [he's] ever visited" -- I hope to visit it myself one day -- but the image one gets from stories like this is that Pakistan is a place where innocent women are gang-raped and essentially left to die, and then persecuted and threatened when they dare refuse to remain silent and submissive.

Musharraf may or may not be nuts, but "he has now met his match -- a peasant woman with a heart of gold and a will of steel". An example for us all.

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  • Thanks, Hajera. I think it's important story to follow. Sometimes one person can mean so much, and I think that's the case here. We tend to deal in abstracts -- you know, what does it even mean that 30 people are killed in Iraq on any given day? That's awful, but also hard to fathom, hard to get our heads around. That's why we tend to be drawn to those individual stories like Ms. Mukhtaran's.

    Anyway, it's not all good news. She still can't travel outside the country. But at least she's free, more or less, and it's important that the world is paying attention to her plight.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:42 AM  

  • I wonder why the Pakistan government is so scared of her going abroad. After all, the media has written about this case extensively already. Is it that the Pakistanis don't realize this or is there something else going on that I don't get?

    By Blogger echidne, at 2:43 PM  

  • Who knows? Maybe Musharraf is worried about the more extreme elements of Pakistani society. Maybe it's all just been a show for them -- Musharraf needed to be tough before he could let her go. I don't know. And maybe Musharraf is worried about what she would say abroad about Pakistan.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 1:51 AM  

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