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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Silence is not ALWAYS golden

Many have been angered, worldwide, on reading the Washington Post report of President Musharraf's statements on rape in Pakistan. I have just seen President Musharraf's videoclip on CNN where [referring to the objectionable parts that have been quoted on every media] he emphatically stated that he was referring to words someone else had uttered in his presence. Although I was very clear that this was, indeed, the case - because that was what was reported by the press - I agree that many may have not understood it as clearly and attributed the words to him. This wrong impression is what he has sought to clear.

Would the President care to identify the person who had said this in his presence? After all, not everyone has the facilty to get within the President's hearing distance, especially given the security situation; so the name should not be difficult to recall. I am really interested in knowing who that someone could be, who could have the temerity and audacity to utter something so disgusting while talking to him about female citizens of the country he heads, and not have been taken to task by him. My expectations of him would be to direct a slap, perhaps the one that he had recently wished to strike Asma Jehangir across the face with, onto the face of this speaker. I am sure many would have done more, had someone dared to voice this view about Mukhtaaraa├▒ Mai or Sonia Naz or the child victims that have been in the news lately.

As I write this, the TV Program Pachaas Minat ("50 Minutes") is showing an interview with yet another victim of rape. Our newspapers carry reports every day of rapes, including those of children, some as young as 3!!! The President is very upset about Pakistan being singled out for chastisement while rapes also occur in the most 'developed' countries. Not only are the instances of such happenings in the 'developed' world no consolation to the victims, their families, or their sympathisers, I cannot recall any rapes taking place, in those countries, on the orders of 'councils of elders' or police officials.

This comparison becomes even more odious when one looks at the recourse available to those victims, while here they cannot even file an FIR. Even when they manage to do so, VIPs - very often including members of our 'elected' represenatives - use their power to alter the course of justice. On the TV talk-show I am watching as I write this, a panelist has just said, as if to underscore my thoughts, that in the Mianwali Case it was the Nazim who was excercising such pressure.

The President should not be upset by people who are expressing justifiable anger, which grows with each frustrating action or inaction of the government. He must acknowledge, even if not publicly, that his placing of Mukhtaaraa├▒ Mai on the Exit Control List has caused more damage to Pakistan's image than she could possibly have done by travelling to the USA to accept funds from some organizations for her school project. All of us must continue to speak out against suppression, wrong decisions, bad laws, indeed anything we wish to speak out against, if the country is to develop into a democracy (or whatever its people truly desire), for, "...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all...", as Nobel Peace Prize Winner and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, aptly said.

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