- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2008

LAHORE, Pakistan | Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s foray into international affairs at the United Nations has made the Alaska governor the most famous woman in Pakistan.

The reason: President Asif Ali Zardari’s purported flirtation with Mrs. Palin, who showed up at the annual U.N. General Assembly session last month to schmooze with world leaders.

During a five-minute photo-op, Mr. Zardari described Mrs. Palin as “gorgeous.”

More than two weeks later, militant mullahs and Pakistani feminists — who rarely agree on anything — remain outraged at Mr. Zardari’s behavior.

Even the most ordinary Pakistanis know who Mrs. Palin is, or at least what she looks like.


As Tina Fey soars, Sarah Palin struggles

“I don’t know her name or what she does but I think Benazir Bhutto was more beautiful,” said Ahmed Zafar, a rickshaw driver in Lahore. Mrs. Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated in December, was Mr. Zardari’s wife.

The much-discussed meeting in New York began with a jubilant Mr. Zardari eagerly approaching Mrs. Palin.

Click here to watch video of the meeting.

His greeting to the Alaska governor — described as “overly-friendly” by the media pundits in print, television and in blogs — prompted one of Pakistan’s most radical clerics to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, condemning Mr. Zardari’s behavior.

Mrs. Bhutto’s widower told Mrs. Palin that she is “even more gorgeous in life” and said he understood why “America is crazy about you.”

A fatwa by Abdul Ghafar of Islamabad’s Red Mosque declared Mr. Zardari’s behavior to be un-Islamic because it included “indecent gestures, filthy remarks and repeated praise of a non-Muslim woman in a short skirt.” Unlike many fatwas from radical clerics, it stopped short of calling for Mr. Zardari’s death.

Mr. Ghafar is a relative of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, leader of the Red Mosque who died during week-long gun battle in July 2007 between government forces and militants holed up in the landmark structure in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s feminists appear equally outraged.

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