“PR is the most important thing in the world”
The Mukhtaran Mai affair came at an inopportune time for Gen Musharraf. Thousands of miles from home, facing a rather unsympathetic press (and public), he was compelled to take personal responsibility for the manner in which Mukhtaran Mai was prevented from traveling abroad. Public relations, the General confessed, is the most important thing in the world. He had travelled half-way across the world to generate good PR, and was surely not going to allow Mukhtaran Mai to travel the other way to undo his good work — personal freedoms, civil rights and other democratic niceties be damned.
But wait — Musharraf also said ‘atrocities are perpetrated daily against women in developing nations round the world – â€œin Kashmir and many other placesâ€.’ What’s this all about?
It may be unclear to a narcissistic dictator, but there is a huge difference between the perpetration of atrocities against women, and state-organised harassment of victims.
Dragging Kashmir into this case is a red herring, unless of course he is referring to the part that is under Pakistani control. Despite the politically charged nature of rape accusations against Indian forces engaged in counter-terrorism, or perhaps because of it, the Indian army has shown remarkable resolve in delivering speedy justice. Freedom House rates Indian Kashmiris as enjoying greater political freedom and civil liberties than their counterparts in Pakistan. In fact, India’s Jammu & Kashmir state enjoys greater freedom, in the midst of insurgency and proxy-war, than the whole of Pakistan under Gen Musharraf.
Last week, perhaps as a result of the Mukhtaran Mai case, media attention turned India’s Uttar Pradesh state, where village elders ordered a Muslim woman to to marry her rapist. Media attention waned when it became clear that, well, the social and legal processes had already kicked into action. Musharraf, of course, would have missed the story.
The Mukhtaran Mai case has exposed Gen Musharraf for what he is — shorn of all the rhetoric about ‘enlightened moderation’ and ‘real democracy’ — a thuggish, PR-obsessed dictator with a pathological fixation on Kashmir.