HR activists pledge to help Mukhtar Mai
MULTAN, March 5,2005: Rights activists staged protest demonstrations here on Friday against the acquittal of five of the six convicts in the ‘Mukhtar Mai gang-rape case.’
Awaz Foundation and South Punjab NGOs Forum organized demonstrations outside the press club. Talking to newsmen, Awaz Foundation’s Ziaur Rehman said the nexus between state and the feudal class had exposed the hollow rhetoric of the government that it had ensured right to the women. He said the rights activists from Pakistan and around the world would back Mukhtar Mai in her struggle.
Mustafa Baloch of the NGOs Forum said overruling was in fact a defeat of the state because the apex court had taken suo moto notice of the barbaric act which took place some 30 months back on the orders of a jury in Meerwala village, Muzaffargarh.
He urged the apex court to take a fresh suo moto notice and suspend acquittal of the convicts. It may be added that while disposing of appeals filed by the convicts against the verdict of the Dera ATC, a division bench of the Multan chapter of the LHC on Thursday acquitted five accused in the case and commuted the death sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment.
In its short order, the bench declared that the evidences presented before the trial court were insufficient and police investigation was also faulty. Mukhtar Mai was allegedly gang-raped by four men on the orders of a Panchayat called by influential Mastoi clan of the area on June 22, 2002, only because her tormentors suspected that her younger brother Abdul Shakoor had illicit relations with one of their girls.
Both national and international media extensively reported the incident and the authorities took cognizance of the matter and the otherwise non-cooperative police had to arrest the accused.
A charge-sheet was submitted against 14 accused with the Dera ATC, which handed down death to six, including two jurors, on Aug 31, 2002, but acquitted rest of the eight accused for want of evidence.
At one stage when the police were investigating the matter, Mukhtar Mai had accused some of the high police officials of distorting facts. After the ATC verdict, Mukhtar Mai utilized her fame as an icon of struggle in a semi-tribal society for the benefit of her backward area.
She opened primary schools for boys and girls in her village with the grant given by President Gen Pervez Musharraf while she managed to have road for the area as well.
She also became a staunch supporter for women’s rights in the country. Women rights organizations often invited her as a guest of honour to their activities in the length and breadth of the country. Recently, the Times magazine had included her in its exclusive list of 20 Asian heroes who were under the age of 40.
Indian film super star Shah Rukh Khan and musician Anushka Shanker, daughter of the eastern music maestro Ravi Shanker, were also in the list but after Mukhtar Mai. President Musharraf had reportedly criticized the magazine for choosing only her from Pakistan during an iftar-dinner he had hosted for columnists and writers of the country at the presidency in last Ramzan.
Mukhtar Mai has now vowed to move the apex court against the ruling of the LHC. Talking to Dawn, she expressed concerns about her and her family’s safety. Meanwhile, the police in Muzaffargarh have beefed up her security.