LHC acquits accused in Mukhtar Mai gang-rape case
MULTAN, March 4, 2005: A division bench of the Lahore High Court here acquitted five convicts who had been sentenced to death for allegedly ordering a woman gang-raped as punishment for her brother’s alleged illicit sex with a woman besides reducing the death sentence of the prime accused to life in prison after the proceedings of three consecutive days on Thursday.
The division bench comprising Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Mehmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui acquitted Ghulam Fareed Mastoi, Fayyaz Hussain Mastoi, Faiz Bakhsh, Ramzan Pujar and Allah Ditta “s the evidence was so deficient to warrant the capital punishment.”
The death sentence earlier awarded to Abdul Khaliq Mastoi was commuted to life term (25 years). The detailed judgment is to be issued later. The Punchayat chief, Faiz M Mastoi, was also acquitted of the charges and the court quashed the judgment earlier passed by the anti terrorism court of Dera Ghazi Khan on August 31, 2002.
Defence counsel Malik M Salim said it was not a fit case for death sentence and the verdict of the anti-terrorism court was largely influenced by the media hype. The rape of the woman in 2002 in a mud-brick house in Meerwala village made world headlines, and led the government to promise sweeping changes in the system.
The village Punchayat ordered Mukhtar Mai be gang-raped in punishment for “her brother Abdul Shakoor had sexually assaulted Mastoi tribe’s girl Salma.” However, Mukhtar Mai contended that Jamil Punnu and Manzoor abducted her brother and subjected him to sodomy. “And it was to cover up this act that the story of the sexual assault by her brother was concocted.”
The Punchayat was convened to decide on the “illicit relations between Shakoor and Salma” at Meerwala in Tehsil Jatoi in 2002 that mostly comprised Mastoi Baloch tribe. The Punchayat during its first round proposed that Salma be married off to Abdul Shakoor and in exchange Mukhtar Mai be engaged to any son of Imam Buksh. The proposal could not be materialised as the Mastois demanded that Mukhtar Mai appear in Punchayat to seek pardon on behalf of her brother.
So Mukhtar Mai’s maternal uncle Sabir Hussain along with her father and eyewitnesses brought her to the Punchayat. Abdul Khaliq, Ghulam Farid, M Fayyaz and Allah Ditta allegedly took Mai forcibly to a room in Abdul Khaliq’s house where she was allegedly subjected to gang rape.
Later, Mai emerged in a semi-naked state in the public, her father, maternal uncle among other eyewitnesses said. Her father and other witnesses removed her to home. A case was registered on 30th June, 2002.
Agencies add: Mukhtar Mai was in court and wept upon hearing the court’s decision. “I am in pain. I will ask my lawyer to challenge this decision,” she told reporters. Mai came forward publicly following the attack in an effort to press the government to seek justice, and her name has been widely published.
She has been honoured by human rights groups in Pakistan for her courage. In their ruling, judges said there were contradictions in statements of witnesses and the case prepared by the prosecution, said a lawyer.
Source: The News