Islamabad: Pakistan’s political landscape has been hit by a torpedo of sorts as a blogger from the United States, Cynthia Ritchie — who has been living in Pakistan since 2009 to promote Pakistan’s positive image — alleged on social media that she was raped by Pakistan’s former interior minister Rehman Malik and was also sexually assaulted by former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and former health minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin. All three are senior leaders with Pakistan’s main Opposition entity — Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Visit to Malik’s house in 2011
In a series of posts that have won the US blogger huge support on social media (#CynthiaIsPrideOfPakistan is currently trending on Twitter), Ritchie alleged that in 2011, she had visited the official residence of the then interior minister Malik in the Diplomatic Enclave of Islamabad, seeking to resolve certain issues related to her visa, when she was drugged and raped by Malik.
She has further alleged that when she reached Malik’s residence, she was presented with flowers, “an electronic device (unusual) gift” and then drugged and raped. “I kept quiet — who in the PPP government would help me against PPP IM,” she further says.
Charges against Gilani
Ritchie has included former prime minister and senior vice-chairman of the PPP, Gilani, and former health minister Shahabuddin also in her charges, accusing them of physical abuse. In a live video feed on her Facebook page, Ritchie claimed that these incident happened while Gilani was staying at the President’s House.
“Now I have filed a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and am in contact with him in case something happens to me, she further said on social media. I have much more to share against other parties as well. But for the time, I will take rest and want to be alone with my fiancé,” said she in her post.
Promoting Pakistan’s soft image
Ritchie, who claims to be in Pakistan to present the country’s positive image to the world, said that though she tried to be positive and promote the softer side of Pakistan, what she experienced was really bad. “I wish to tell my truth one time so that women, transgenders, locals can understand they are not alone,” she said.
With regard to why she didn’t take up the matter with the US Embassy when these alleged incidents happened, she said: “I did tell someone at the UsEmb [US Embassy] in 2011, but due to ‘fluid’ situation and ‘complex’ relations between US and Pakistan, response was less than adequate.”
While her posts have won her sympathy from a large number of people on social media, there are also voices condemning her for trying to malign Pakistan’s political class.
Noted journalist Saleem Safi in his post questioned what made her keep this a secret for all these years. While questioning her credentials, Safi in a post on Twitter asked on whose agenda this “mysterious” woman was working. “We need to know her background before paying attention to what she is saying.”
Gilani dismisses allegations
Meanwhile, Gilani and Malik have dismissed the charges, terming them as insulting and below one’s dignity. Gilani, while speaking to Gulf News on Saturday, said that Ritchie had levelled baseless allegations against his party leader late Benazir Bhutto and made serious accusations against him. “The real issue is that Cynthia Ritchie has used slanderous language against Benazir Bhutto and my son, who is a member of the Punjab Assembly. Filed a defamation suit against her,” Gilani said. He said he had met Ritchie only a few months ago at a reception in Islamabad. “Before that, I had never met or seen her,” he insisted.
Malik backs Gilani’s statement
Senator Malik has also endorsed the statement of Gilani, denying the allegations of the US citizen. According to Malik’s spokesperson, Malik strongly denied the wild and fabricated allegations against him, which she did in order to malign and scandalise him. “She has levelled these allegations of rape against Senator A. Rehman Malik after ten years on the instigation of some vested groups, only to harm his reputation,” the spokesperson further said.