LAHORE, June 24: PPP MNA Sherry Rehman says the Mukhtaran Mai episode has exposed Gen Pervez Musharraf and his advisers as an insecure and unprincipled junta that perpetuates its absolute hold on state power at the cost of innocent, underprivileged citizens.

In a press statement here, she said on the one hand, the general was jet-setting from one global capital to another to ostensibly peddle Pakistan’s ‘soft image’ abroad but on the other there was a woman who has the courage to speak out about the injustice done to her by feudal jirgas, yet she was being prevented from going abroad on the invitation of a Pakistani doctors’ forum.

“It is a sad indictment of the government’s double-dealing that foreign powers had to intervene to get Mukhtaran’s name off the Exit Control List. But even today she is being coerced by government officials and ‘moderate’ women ministers to say that she is free to go abroad while they keep her strictly under their surveillance and physical control.”

The PPP legislator said instead of turning its attention to curbing injustices done to women in society, the government was focusing its energies in sloppy spin-doctoring about Pakistani NGOs and the utility of sweeping such episodes under the rug.

Ms Sherry said Gen Musharraf himself admitted to the instructions he gave preventing Mukhtaran’s foreign travel or free movement. “What he does not realize is that the quantum and quality of official lies has become more of an embarrassment than anything that Mukhtaran would have said at a private citizens’ forum anywhere in the world.”

She said it is even more unfortunate that when a large number of NGOs did get together to do their job of promoting the fundamental human rights of all citizens including women and minorities, they were condemned and tarred with one brush by the ruling establishment “which does nothing for women except hold seminars for the international community about its so-called commitment to women and human rights.”

She said the governments’ recent treatment of Mukhtar Mai had revealed its true colours of a policy-less regime which spent billions of state money on propagandizing tall claims of promoting women’s rights, while on the ground, it colluded with right-wing forces who sought to push women out of the public mainstream. “To equate a citizen’s right to talk about the injustice done to her to ‘washing dirty linen in public’ amounts to saying that it is better if all such crimes go unreported. This is not just shocking and unconscionable, but impossible in this age of global channels and communication.”

The PPP, Ms Sherry said, condemned this shameful travesty of justice done by the government in the name of enlightened moderation. The party urged all stakeholders to unite against such open violations of human rights entitlements.

“To pretend that Mukhtaran is not a symbol of courage and resistance for Pakistani women is tantamount to turning away from a history of commitments made by the state to its oppressed underclass.”

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