Few cops on guard in Meerwala
MEERWALA, March 18,2005: Only a few policemen are on guard in the village of Mukhtar Mai contrary to the official claims that security for her family has been beefed up after the release of the four men acquitted of the charge of assaulting her.
Only four police personnel, including one in civvies, were found on duty on Thursday at the under-construction Meerwala police post. On the other hand, the released men were being greeted by their supporters and there was no police official, at least in uniform, to restrict their movement.
Post in-charge ASI Ghulam Rasool said the total strength of the force was seven, and two of them remained at the post every time in three shifts of eight hours each. He said, however, they could call for reinforcement if needed. He said Meerwala looked peaceful, but the situation had been tense since the release of the four men acquitted by the Lahore High Court.
When asked about the posting of more than 30 policemen in Meerwala, he said the figure included all those personnel who were providing security to the foreigners who had been visiting Mukhtar Mai since her ordeal once again hit the headlines after acquittal of the convicts.
This correspondent was in Meerwala when an overseas reporter came there escorted by more than two dozen police and elite force personnel. People in Meerwala admire Mukhtar Mai for the social work she has been doing in the area by running schools and using her personality and fame to fetch funds for development schemes, but they usually do not talk much about her ordeal.
“It’s better not to talk about what had happened here (nearly three years ago). Where the incident has ravaged her life, it has also brought a bad name to the country,” said Abdul Karim, a resident of the area.
Parents of the children getting education in Mukhtar Mai’s schools said earlier they could not send their progenies to schools because the same were situated in the far-off areas. However, Mukhtar Mai had provided them the facility at their doorsteps.
Union council Nazim Mohammad Saddiq Jatoi said the government had introduced a lot of development schemes for the area while several more were in the pipeline only due to the efforts of Mukhtar Mai.
He said everyone knew that she was subjected to gang rape on the orders of a panchayat predominated by the Mastois of the area. “It’s ironical if the police and the prosecutors cannot establish the fact before the high court,” he regretted.
Mukhtar Mai’s mother Bachal Mai said her daughter had merely gone out of home before she was tormented, and now she had to run from pillar to post to get restore her ‘lost pride’. “It’s her great urge for honour and self-respect which prompts her to fight against all odds,” she said with tears in her eyes.