Mukhtaran case echoes in US House -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Mukhtaran case echoes in US House

ISLAMABAD, March 16,2005 :The echo of Mukhtaran Mai case was heard in the US House of Representatives on March 10, when Woolsey from California spoke in detail about the horrific incident and urged the US administration to spend more on female education in Pakistan.

This she suggests would be a smart security option, rather than consuming budgets on guns and bombs. We need to pursue a smarter national security policy if we want to get serious about ending terrorism and encouraging democracy. We need what I call SMART Security, which is a Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism for the 21st century, Woolsey observed.

Following is text of her speech:Tonight I want to tell the story of Mukhtaran Mai, a Pakistani woman who was gang-raped by four men at the direction of the local village council. She committed no crime whatsoever, not a single violation of any kind; yet she was punished by allowing neighbouring men to rape her.

Why did the village council encourage the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai? They say it is because her brother was accused of having sex with an older woman from a more prominent family. So the family’s punishment was through Mai. But even worse is that the accusation that Mai’s brother had sex with an older woman was not true. The accusation was floated to cover up the fact that her brother was, in fact, sexually assaulted by a group of men.

Everyone in the world should be offended by these horrific acts. Mai is a 33-year-old schoolteacher dedicated to educating her nation’s children, and she was viciously attacked as punishment for a crime that her brother was accused of, but never committed. Sadly, Mai is not alone. Extreme violence against women happens every day in countries around the world. Most Pakistani women, I am told, in a situation like this, would choose to quietly accept their unfair fate because of fear from the powerful influence of their tribal leaders.

Mai was not silenced. She bravely spoke out after the rape. Her brave voice attracted the attention of media outlets all around the world. In embarrassment, the Pakistani government reacted to public pressure by promising to swiftly punish her attackers, and a court soon tried and jailed the six men who were involved in the rape.

Unfortunately, the story gets even worse after that. These men, this week, who are all close neighbours of Mai, were actually released from prison. Citing a lack of evidence, a higher court overturned the original convictions of five of the six men. With the five released, Mai fears her life is in danger. Mr Speaker, who would not be afraid, especially when the men live so close, especially when one woman went against her village traditions and spoke out and challenged her rapists and her accusers, acting bravely, not cowering and not accepting the shame of such an injustice?

This is an important story for several reasons. First, anyone who cares about the fair treatment of human beings around the world should be concerned that women are being treated this way anywhere. Also, we know there is an important link between the fair treatment of women and global security and development. In fact, the more equitably a country treats its female population, the more stable that country tends to be.

Studies in developing countries have demonstrated that the higher the level of girls’ enrolment in school, the less crime and violence occur in that country. The question is: Why does the United States provide millions of dollars every year to a country like Pakistan that allows this type of brutality to occur?

Last year alone, the United States provided $300 million in foreign military financing for Pakistan, a country, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, that has provided covert support for terrorist organizations that are active in Pakistan’s mountainous regions, making it almost impossible to track the activities of groups like al-Qaeda.

We need to pursue a smarter national security policy if we want to get serious about ending terrorism and encouraging democracy. We need what I call SMART Security, which is a Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism for the 21st century.

Instead of providing millions of dollars in military support for countries that endorse and encourage terrorism, SMART security would spend the same dollars on educational opportunities in countries like Pakistan, especially for women and girls, in order to help encourage gender equality and economic stability. The return on our dollar will be far greater when spent on books and schools instead of guns and bombs.

Let us adopt the SMART security policy when it comes to dealing with countries like Pakistan, because SMART security will make America safer in the long run, and it will help millions of brave women like Mukhtaran Mai.
Source: The News
Date:3/16/2005