Pressure to drop the charges
Seven years down the road Mukhtar Mai continues to suffer the agony and trauma inflicted upon her by the ‘jirga’-ordered gang rape in the remote village of Meerwala. The powerful ‘Mastoi’ tribe had to punish the lowly ‘Gujjar Tatlas’, and Mukhtaran was ordered to receive the brutal punishment for a crime she had not committed.
The barbaric gang rape of June 22, 2002 shook the very soul of Pakistan. It was an incident that exposed the true face of the social and power structure of Pakistani society. It was a matter that shamed and challenged the conscience of every thinking citizen. One felt that the incident would move the courts and the corridors of power to once and for all put an end to this medieval practice, the culprits would be given exemplary punishments and the ‘jirgas’ would be abolished for good.
Alas no such thing ever happened. Mukhtar Mai fought a lone battle against a society and its institutions who collectively were determined to delay and deny justice to the victim on one hand, and to promote and protect rapists on the other. Pakistan’s bravest woman who stood up and raised her voice against injustice lost the first round comprehensively. Her rapists, well supported by the like-minded state functionaries have still not been brought to justice. On the other hand, the sponsors of crimes against women, burying them alive, getting them mauled by dogs, and patrons of rapes and vani have won the first round effortlessly. Many of them have been honoured, rewarded and promoted as federal ministers of the Islamic Republic.
While justice may still be an eternity away from Mukhtar Mai, the least that we could have done was to leave her alone and let her do the much needed social work that she was doing in her village. Her press conference of February 06, 2009 has however exposed how she continues to be harassed by the powerful ‘Mastois’, whose representative now heads the Federal Ministry of Defence Production. She accused the Federal Minister of pressurising her to drop charges against the 13 accused of the ‘Mastoi’ tribe. Unfortunately the threat also includes a warning that the minister and his associates would not let the Supreme Court decision go in her favour. A veiled reminder that the Supreme Court packed with a truck load of PCO judges is ever willing to oblige those in power.
The assault on Mukhtaran Mai, subsequent denial of justice and threats to her to withdraw her case are an insult to the citizens of Pakistan, their dignity, their sanity and their collective conscience. The ordinary people of Pakistan must therefore join hands to support Mukhtaran in her struggle in every possible way they can think of. There is a need to protest and file a legal suit against those who support crimes against women and have been elevated to the ranks of ministers. This should also include those who are threatening her to withdraw the case and those who are influencing the already influenced PCO courts.
We need to honour Mukhtar Mai for her courage. The award of Hilal-e-Quaid-e-Azam should have gone to Mukhtar Mai instead of Richard Boucher. While scores of roads , schools, airports, buildings, bridges and projects have been named after Benazir, why not a single one for Mukhtar Mai, whose courage and determination is just as exemplary. She is the Rosa Parks of Pakistan. While she refused to give up, there are thousands of others who continue to suffer in silence. We can therefore pay a tribute to Mukhtar Mai by setting up Rape Crisis Centres for the protection and support services to the victims. We could press the government to create one window rape support centres. These centres operated by female staff should provide immediate and respectful FIR, medical examination, medical report and legal services to the rape victims. We can push the government to abolish ‘Jirgas’ and create a judicial system that will take no more than one month to complete trials relating to rape cases.
Ordinary Pakistani citizens are increasingly vulnerable to the tyranny and injustice of the kind suffered by Mukhtar Mai. The background, statements and actions of many Federal Ministers suggest that the ‘jirgas’, vani, rape and killing would continue to be encouraged and promoted. The crimes against ordinary citizens will not qualify for a UN led investigation. Nor would there be enough $ five million packets to go around for every rape victim. The citizens need to stand up for themselves, organise and raise their voice against these crime-supportive ministers and the unjust judicial system. There can be no better lesson learnt and no better role model than the steadfast , dignified and courageous female from Meerwala.
Feb 07, 2009