An American blogger has accused a former interior minister of Pakistan of raping her. She has also accused a former prime minister and health minister of harassing her. Her allegation cannot be taken lightly because she has lived in Pakistan for more than 10 years and she has been known as a sympathiser of the Pakistan Army rather than a detractor or critic of the Islamic state.
All three politicians have denied the charges, though. Two of them have filed a complaint with the country’s law enforcement agencies to probe any possible sinister angle in the allegations.
The blogger, Cynthia Ritchie, is a combative social media influencer whom most outside of Pakistan might never have heard of. But she is controversy’s favourite child in the Islamic nation.
Ritchie posted a Facebook live video last evening where she named Rahman Malik, former interior minister and current member of the Pakistani senate or upper house of that country’s parliament, of sexually assaulting her. She accused former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani and former health minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin too. They, she alleges, harassed her. All three politicians belong to the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
The Facebook video was the latest in a series of exchanges between Ritchie and the PPP leadership. The barrage of accusations the blogger has flung their way has obviously incensed the party heads.
The attack began from the end of the blogger who first alleged that late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto used to order the rape of women she suspected were having affairs with her husband Asif Ali Zardari. Ritchie, as is her wont, offered no evidence to substantiate her allegations that is not finding many takers in Pakistan.
Zardari did not react to the accusation, but the PPP’s senior leadership responded. They asked who Ritchie was, who had authorised her stay in Pakistan and what her sources of income were — given that she was not gainfully employed anywhere.
The PPP retaliated with its own ‘leaks’. It accused the blogger of being an ISI-funded troll, perhaps with the assumption that the Inter-Services Intelligence being a part of the Pakistan Army of which Ritchie is a sympathiser would make it sound credible.
The game of allegations and counter charges took an amusing turn when Ritchie posted a picture of PPP’s provincial minister Murtaza Wahab standing next to a scantily dressed woman and accused him of immorality. Wahab clarified that the woman in question was a wax model at Madame Tussauds in London.
Ritchie accused PPP leaders also of links with Gulf-based businessmen. The blogger alleged they were involved in a number of scams. Again, she did not furnish evidence in support of the claim.
The ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan is believed to be enjoying the show from a distance. Believed to be close to the army, the party or its government has taken no action despite a number of complaints against Ritchie submitted to the cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency.
Ritchie, in her latest accusation, said her “ordeal” took place at the official residence of Rehman Malik, his enclave in Islamabad in 2011, around the time “when the Osama Bin Laden incident happened”. “I thought it was a meeting about my visa but I was given flowers [and] a drugged drink,” she claimed, adding she had “kept quiet” about the incident because “who in the [ruling government] would help me against the [accused minister]?”
The blogger said she had informed the US embassy in 2011 about the incident, adding that “owing to fluid and complex Pak-US relations, the response was less than adequate”.
In a tweet, exiled political commentator Aisha Siddiqa said the Pakistani establishment might be wanting to put pressure on the PPP heads before moves to roll back the 18th amendment to the country’s constitution. The former PPP government had passed this amendment, which gives enhanced powers to the democratic civilian government and to the provinces.
Many commentators and experts in Pakistan believe Ritchie too. They say that bringing up her links to the army is a no-brainer as it is a known fact. However, they add the blogger could be acting at the behest of the powerful security establishment.