Preposterous Universe

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Mukhtaran Bibi

Update: Well, that was fast. Before I even got the post published, word is out that Mukhtaran Bibi may have been released! Who knows exactly what prompted the decision, but perhaps a well-timed blog campaign actually had some effect. On the other hand, it may just be a sham, as Kristof suggests (via Majikthise) -- so it's worth keeping the pressure on.

Update again (6/16): Apparently, she is still not free to travel. Perhaps unsurprising to see the US State Department joining in the "soothing" but misleading public statements.

Ezra Klein points to a post by Tom Watson about the arrest of Mukhtaran Bibi. Nicholas Kristof tells the backstory:
Last fall I wrote about Mukhtaran Bibi, a woman who was sentenced by a tribal council in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother. Four men raped Ms. Mukhtaran, then village leaders forced her to walk home nearly naked in front of a jeering crowd of 300.

Ms. Mukhtaran was supposed to have committed suicide. Instead, with the backing of a local Islamic leader, she fought back and testified against her persecutors. Six were convicted.

Then Ms. Mukhtaran, who believed that the best way to overcome such abuses was through better education, used her compensation money to start two schools in her village, one for boys and the other for girls. She went out of her way to enroll the children of her attackers in the schools, showing that she bore no grudges.
But then, Mukhtaran made plans to visit the U.S. Presumably she would tell people about some of the less pleasant aspects of the current situation in Pakistan. As Ezra explains:
Pervez Musharraf, our erstwhile ally in the War on Terror, couldn't have that. Mukhtaran Bibi was put under house arrest last Thursday. When she tried to walk out, police pointed guns at her. When she tried to make calls, they snipped the landline. When she moved to the cell, they took her to Islamabad and put her in prison. Then, for good measure, they released her rapists -- a warning shot.
As good a reason as I've ever seen to bring political pressure to bear on a repressive government. Tom Watson suggests that everyone write to Pakistani officials to express their outrage, and has collected the relevant email addresses:

His Excellency Mr. Jehangir Karamat ambassador@embassyofpakistan.org

Mr Mohammad Sadiq is Deputy Chief of Mission and assists the Ambassador in the overall functioning of the Embassy. He deals with both political and administrative issues. dcmsadiq@embassyofpakistan.org

Mr Aslam Khan is Minister (Political) and deals with political issues minpol@embassyofpakistan.org

Mr Shahid Ahmed is Counsellor Community Affairs and deals with the Pakistani community in the United States. shahidahmed@embassyofpakistan.org

Brig Shafqaat Ahmed is the Defence & Military Attache of the Pakistan Embassy. da@embassyofpakistan.org

Mr Ashraf Hayat is the Minister (Trade) and deals with Pakistan-US trade issues. commercialsection@embassyofpakistan.org & compk@rcn.com

Mrs Talat Waseem is the Press Minister and Media Spokesperson of the Embassy pressinfodiv@embassyofpakistan.org

Don't delay.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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