Women’s day walk in support of Mukhtar Mai
MULTAN, March 08,2005: Hundreds of women participated in a walk led by Meerwala gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai here on Monday.
The walk was jointly organized by the Pattan Development Organization, the Women Councillors Network and the South Punjab NGOs Forum in connection with the International Women Day.
A record number of women came out on roads to show solidarity with Mukhtar Mai. The organizers were also overwhelmed with the response the walk had drawn especially by the women of all age groups. They were seen sympathizing with Mukhtar Mai while giving an assurance to her that they would be with her in her struggle to get justice.
The walk started from the Allama Iqbal Park and ended near the Multan Arts Council. The participants were carrying banners and placards demanding an equal status for women in every sphere of life, including in the courts. They also demanded justice for Mukhtar Mai and Dr Shazia Khalid of Sui.
Mukhtar Mai expressed gratitude to the people who had turned out on roads to express solidarity with her, and hoped that the Supreme Court would do justice with her. She demanded that her ‘perpetrators’ must not be released on the Lahore High Court orders until a decision by the apex court in this regard. She feared that they could flee out of the country before a judgment by the apex court.
Pattan’s Dr Farzana termed acquittal of five of the six accused in the Mukhtar Mai rape case ‘miscarriage of justice’. She alleged that the accused in the Dr Shazia case were being patronized rather putting behind bars only because they were men in uniform.
Pattan’s chairman Sarwar Bari criticized President Musharraf for saying a few days ago in Noshera that he had brought with him a jirga to reconcile differences over the issue of Kalabagh dam. “The president is promoting the jirga culture despite knowing that women are daily subjected to black laws of jirgas in the rural areas,” he said.
Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped in Meerwala village of Muzaffargarh by four men on June 22, 2002, on the orders of a Panchayat predominated by the influential Mastoi clan which suspected that her brother, Abdul Shakoor, had relations with one of its girls.
The incident had drawn attention of the national and international media. The Anti-Terrorism Court in Dera Ghazi Khan handed down death to six of the accused, including two members of the Panchayat.
The convicts challenged their conviction in LHC’s Multan bench. A division bench acquitted five of the six convicts and commuted the death sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment, ruling that the evidence presented by the prosecution was insufficient and the police investigation in the case was flawed. Mukhtar Mai vows to challenge the LHC order in the apex court while the federal government has also announced to do the same.