The public flogging of a 17 year-old Pakistani girl, identified as Chand Bibi, has caused the usual international hand wringing.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General described the flogging as "unacceptable." I would have thought being served bad coffee at the UN Executive Dining room would be classified as "unacceptable." A public, brutal flogging? Slightly higher on the shocking scale I would submit, Your Honor.
Pakistani politicians' responses varied widely -- from claiming the tape was fake, to saying there are more important things on the country's over-packed 'Help Us Get the Heck Out of This Mess' agenda, to one slightly deranged declaration that it was a Jewish conspiracy to defame Islam. (Many, however, including President Asif Ali Zardari, are condemning the whipping but in rather, shall we say, muted tones?)
And there was the usual wee beam of light from Pakistan's recently reinstated Chief Justice. When the video went public, the learned, fearless and therefore controversial Iftikhar Chaudhry immediately demanded the interior secretary and other government officials appear before him to explain how this was allowed to happen. The Minister and his officials hid behind an alleged statement by Chand Bibi that the flogging never took place.
But here's the thing. This inhuman, arrogant, egregious act comes under the category, 'Truly Shocking But Not At All Surprising'.
The beating -- which apparently occurred some time in the last eight weeks -- is an obvious and inevitable result of Islamabad's recent ceding of power to the Taliban in the Swat Valley.
It's not until the doling out of Taliban law (random, vicious, punitive and usually devoid of justice) becomes so chillingly public on a global scale, that parliamentarians and public officials are forced to condemn publically what has been happening in Taliban hotspots for years.
Pakistan's growing middle class, academics, human rights activists, lawyers and professionals warned that this would happen. They knew that the consequence of weakly conceding a large patch of ground to the Taliban would, of course -- of course -- lead to such outrageous human rights violations. Their voices were drowned out while political expediency and arrogant disregard for due process trumped human rights and democracy.
Is the beating of Chand Bibi truly shocking? Absolutely. But it was inevitable that this would happen? Without a doubt. President Zadari may condemn the flogging thugs, but he was so complicit in the process he may as well have handed out the whips.
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