But another strand of Pakistani opinion refused to credit India with its development, focusing instead on the risqué nature of Bollywood films and urban Indians' conspicuous Westernization. In an article for the Frontier Post, an English-language newspaper in northwest Pakistan, headlined "No Justice For a Woman in India," columnist Afshain Afzal described the Delhi gang rape as "a routine affair" for India, where working women "especially the internees at the Indian hospitals are quite frequent [sic] that they are sexually abused and those who refuse to cooperate are tortured or their lives made miserable. This is, but, the true face of India." He suggested "there is a need for Indian young girls and women to observe dress code according to their eastern tradition and culture."
Meanwhile, sections of the Pakistani web community derided India's "pretensions" to laws, rights, and equality. In response to an op-ed in a Pakistani paper by an Indian writer arguing for a change of mindset rather than castration for rapists, a reader raged: "Indians pretend to have laws, rights and equality.… They are high on philosophy and morality. But in practice they are a klepto society."
There was an echo of this in nearby Afghanistan, even though it remains deeply absorbed by its own problems, including the high incidence of rape among female police officers in Kabul. Tolo, the country's leading television channel, provided constant coverage of the events in Delhi, prompting a mixed response from Afghans. According to an Afghan media observer who asked to remain anonymous, opinion was divided on whether the anti-rape protests were worth duplicating in Afghanistan, where half of its women prisoners are in jail for zina, or moral crimes such as rape and adultery. He said that some Afghans on television and radio shows felt that Indians' anger exposed the flaws in "a big democracy, where we thought the women were well respected. But we were wrong. Women rights are violated there too and they don't have much freedom."
In the subcontinent's treacherous politics, the carping reflects the contradictions between India's visible failures and its image as South Asia's most developed country. That's too bad, says Syed Irfan Ashraf, who writes for Dawn, Pakistan's oldest newspaper: "Pakistan and the subcontinent suffers by not having a strong example to point to in the neighborhood," he told Foreign Policy.
But the dominant sentiment on the subcontinent is clearly schadenfreude, reflected in an article by filmmaker Hira Nabi in the Friday Times, which describes itself as a liberal newspaper. Comparing gender equity on both sides of the border, she wrote that Indian women's apparent freedoms were "illusory" even though those in Delhi are more "brazen" than in Lahore, "wearing most whatever they pleased, owning the streets as they walked, hailing rickshaws, taking the metro, crossing streets, shopping in bazaars, talking back."