In June 2007, I saw a preview of Dinner With The President, a documentary about democracy in Pakistan. I’ve been looking for the movie ever since but have not been able to find it. In the meantime, all the teaser clips that I see of the movie only make me long for it more. In the two years that have passed, much has happened in Pakistan: the President of the documentary’s title is no longer the President; a political icon has been assassinated; and the Pakistani Taliban are posing a serious challenge. Yet, my sense is that Dinner With The President still remains relevant.
The President of the title is of course Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf surprisingly agreed to a dinner interview with Sabiha Sumar, one of the makers of the documentary. But Musharraf is not the only person Sabiha interviews. She talks to the young and the elite; she travels to a tribal area presumably in Pakistan’s west or northwest and talks to elders. The latter meeting is particularly tense. There is not one other woman at this gathering. Undaunted, Sabiha asks questions that make all the assembled men squirm. What does democracy mean to them? Why do they insist on strict interpretations of the Quran? Where does it say in the Quran that women are supposed to wear head scarves?
The responses is not all uniform. There are few dissenting men who seem to be against the intransigence of some of the elders. At the end, Sabiha's questions become so disconcerting to the assembled group, some men walk out, while others stay and talk to her.
The full clip of this interaction – a must-see in my opinion – is here.