Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Onions and apples

Published in Daily Times, Lahore on September 21, 2005

Sir: General Pervez Musharraf seems to be very upset with civil the rights groups protesting the treatment meted out to the rape victims by the authorities in Pakistan. He has repeatedly argued in the last couple of months that the number of rapes committed in countries like France and the US is far greater than that in Pakistan. Why, he repeated asks, is then Pakistan being singled out and why are rape victims in other countries not invited to narrate their ordeals?

What General Musharraf fails to realise is that the protests are not aimed at the crime of rape itself. The protests are about the response (or lack of it) of the Pakistani authorities and institutions to the crime. When a rape incident is reported in Europe, USA or another civilised country, the police does its best to catch the perpetrators and usually succeeds. The perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. The state, the police, the community and the media are on the side of the victim. The victims never feel the need to beg for justice from anyone inside or outside the country.

In Pakistan, however, the state institutions are not protecting the victims. Worse, they are involved in perpetrating the crime (Sonia Naz) and harassing, intimidating and badmouthing the victims (Dr Shazia and Mukhtar Mai). So, next time when General Musharraf feels like quoting statistics on rape and comparing Pakistan with other countries he should remember that comparing onions with apples does not make a valid argument.

New York