The state rolls on, impotently
Just on the heels of the government's knee-jerk responses showing self-righteous indignation at the stick the Big General has come in for as a direct result of his by now infamous remarks about rape, there are at least five credible stories in the press about this dastardly crime being committed upon all manner of victims, from baby girls to grand-mothers. The one that stands out, however, is about an under-aged (according to the Hindu way) Hindu girl who was kidnapped and gang-raped in Jacobabad, Sindh, and who has subsequently reportedly converted to Islam and married one of her assailants. The two criminals who had been arrested for the crime of rape have been released consequent to the girl's statement in court regarding her marriage to one of them.
The case has been discussed in the National Assembly, no less, reportedly in the following words: "Speaking in the National Assembly Minister of State for Interior Wasim Shahzad said that the girl was abducted on September 14 and a case was registered the same day. 'Two of the four abductors were arrested', he said in response to a Calling Attention Notice. The minister said she gave a statement in the court that she has married one of the accused and embraced Islam at Dargah Amrit Sharif. 'In light of her statement the court dismissed the case and freed the rapists,' Wasim added".
Isn't something very, very wrong here? The case that was registered on September 14 against the four was one of the horrible crime of rape was it not? Suppose the poor girl was intimidated into proselytising and changing her religion AND marrying one of her assailants to let them off the hook? Does the State have no part to play in any of this? Can the State not be a complainant and prosecute the case on its own, for the original crime of rape, carried out by four men? What about Zina bil Jabr something we hear so much about in the Land of the Pure? Or is it only to be applied in reverse: to women who have been raped?
This is not all. Minority members of the National Assembly, Gayan Chand Singh, Krishan Bheel and Ramesh Lal have demanded that the case be dealt with as one of abduction because under Hindu law and custom a girl of 17 is a minor and cannot marry of her own will until she is 20. If Pakistani society is inclusive, and all are equal citizens of the country, the State must enforce the customs according to which its various components, including Hindus, live. Surely the girl can be recovered from the rapists and returned to her parents, and the criminals proceeded against by the mighty State of Pakistan?
In a further and equally damaging revelation made in the National Assembly, Krishan Bheel said many Hindus, businessmen and others, are also being kidnapped for huge ransom in Sindh. "These incidents are taking place to force the Hindus to leave Pakistan, where they have been living for the past five thousand years", he said. "Several religious parties are reportedly behind this move by convincing the people that it is their moral responsibility to get rid of infidels from Pakistan and (that) taking ransom from non-Muslims is not a sin" the report concludes.
These are serious charges and show up the hollowness of the government's fight-back against what it still says is an unfair reading of the Big General's remarks to the Washington Post. Which, by the way, the newspaper has posted, in an audio clip on its website at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/audio/2005/09/23/AU2005092301253.html
Before I go any further, however, after hearing the General himself I have to say that he started on the issue of women and rape and violence in an extremely eloquent and supportive manner. In a nine-minute clip of his own voice and words there are eight minutes in which he says just the right things; just the things that need to be said in addressing the problems of women in our country which is made up largely of misogynists of the worst kind. And then, out of the blue, the BOMBSHELL for no reason under the sun and the moon and the stars: bila wajah he says what the WP says he said. So outlandish and shocking were his remarks that one can clearly hear several loud (and unbelieving) moans from someone or other present in the same room as the General. Actually, despite reading the remarks repeatedly; in spite of writing about them twice, and having taken part in a demonstration called by the JAC in Islamabad to protest them this last Thursday even I could not help an "Oh no!" escape my lips when I heard them verbatim yesterday.
Let me once again advise the Big General to apologise -- it will only prove he is a big man. And to women it will send the signal that he is their protector who just made a mistake that is all. It will do much more for him than any silly letter to the editor such as the one written by our Ambassador to Washington to the NY Times the other day.
Bushism of the Week: "Then I went for a run with the other dog and just walked. And I started thinking about a lot of things. I was able to -- I can't remember what it was. Oh, the inaugural speech, started thinking through that" -- President George W. Bush; U.S. News and World Report; January 22, 2001.
The writer is a retired army officer
and a freelance columnist