How Sarah Palin Rallied Pakistan's Feminists

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  1. #1
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    How Sarah Palin Rallied Pakistan's Feminists

    She could actually be a powerful weapon....make a speech to all of those deprived woman and brain wash them into overthrowing the government.

    Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari would have expected that his interactions with American leaders in New York this week could bring trouble at home. After all, relations between the two countries are as tense as they've ever been, erupting into an exchange of fire between U.S. and Pakistani forces along the Afghan border on Thursday. But the meeting that appears to have gotten the Pakistani leader into more trouble than any other was a brief encounter with Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.

    Zardari met Palin on Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where Zardari was making his debut on the world stage and Palin was meeting with visiting heads of state in the hope of improving her much-derided foreign policy credentials. The resulting exchange turned Palin into a household name in Pakistan, but saw Zardari pilloried at home as a source of national embarrassment and accused of sexism and impropriety.

    In footage now being endlessly replayed on local cable channels and on YouTube, Palin is seen rising to introduce herself as Zardari enters, dressed in one of his signature flashy tailored suits. As custom demands, the two grip each other's hands and shake them animatedly before the cameras. But it is the remarks that follow that got Zardari into hot water back home.

    Meetings between Pakistani and American leaders are traditionally staid and predictable, although some Pakistanis are fond of recalling an apocryphal 1963 exchange between John F. Kennedy and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — father of slain prime minister Benazir, to whom Zardari was married. Impressed by the then Foreign Minister, who would become prime minister before being deposed by a U.S.-backed military dictator in 1977 and later executed, Kennedy is alleged to have said: "If you were an American you would be in my cabinet." Bhutto is alleged to have answered, "Be careful Mr President, if I were an American, you would be in my cabinet."

    What Zardari said after shaking Palin's hand will likely prove a great deal less memorable. "You are more gorgeous than you are on [television]," he told Palin after she declared she was honored to meet him. "Now I know why the whole of America is crazy about you," Zardari added, flashing his trademark teeth-baring smile.

    At this point, the two were urged to shake hands again, presumably for the benefit of the cameras. "I'm supposed to pose again," Palin said quietly. Pointing toward the aide that prompted them, Zardari said, "If he's insisting, I might hug."

    Pakistani newspapers ran prominent accounts of the "embarassing" incident, while news anchors smirked after airing the footage. On Geo TV, a popular Urdu language network, Zardari's remarks were delicately termed "a light and open exchange of remarks" before the short clip ran with blow-by-blow commentary. A subsequent version was run with an Urdu ballad playing in the background.

    Being Pakistan, attention was inevitably turned to how the event was covered in neighboring India. Times Now television introduced the clip with the words "Pakistani President Asif Zardari seems to be a big fan of Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but his first meeting with her has critics saying that he was completely a bit out of line." Straplines across the top of the screen blare: "Pak President Out of Line with Palin", "Zardari Shocks with Sexist Remark" and "Zardari Ignores Diplomatic Propriety".

    The criticism was echoed by leading Pakistani feminists. "I feel it's absolutely shameful and a disgrace," says Tahira Abdullah, a prominent women's rights activist. "It is against diplomatic protocol. And he is supposed to be mourning the loss of his illustrious and so-called beloved wife. Instead he's flirting with her in public. He should apologize to her and to Pakistanis."

    "President Zardari's charm offensive on Ms. Palin was, well, offensive," wrote political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi in an op-ed for The News. "What excuse does the husband of a global feminist icon have for his faux pas?" he asked, in a reference to the late Benazir Bhutto's status as the Muslim world's first prime minister.

    While many reactions have been hostile, some Pakistanis have laughed off the exchange as nothing more than a source of inconsequential merriment. But the country's religious conservatives are unlikely to be so forgiving. A previous inappropriate encounter between a leading Pakistani male politician and an American female politician was seized on by political opponents in parliament after Condoleezza Rice biographer Marcus Mabry described in pitiless detail an abortive charm offensive by former prime minister Shaukat Aziz on the U.S. Secretary of State, after Aziz had allegedly told diplomats that "he could conquer any woman in two minutes".

    Mabry's account of the Rice-Aziz encounter spawned a minor media storm in Pakistan, and like it, the furor over the Zardari-Palin meeting will soon be forgotten. With an economy in freefall and militancy on the rise, Pakistanis may have little time to concern themselves for too long over how their president comports himself.

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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by min0 lee View Post
    She could actually be a powerful weapon....make a speech to all of those deprived woman and brain wash them into overthrowing the government. :
    Won't happen.

    Pakistan is composed of many fiefdoms, and some war-lords.

    In many parts of the country, the literacy rate is 0%.

    It's not about the Pakistani government, which is actually containing (or trying to) the more radical fundamentalists.

    ISI, has its hands full.

    This perception and article about Palin shows the ignorance and western bias of Americans who know basically nothing about Pakistan.

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