Misplaced patriotism
March 30, 2019
My democracy will not deliver
March 30, 2019

Mukhtaran Mai vs. the rest of Pakistan

Mukhtaran has engaged in fighting a moral war for the past three years against a society and its institutions, who collectively are determined to delay and deny justice to Mukhtaran on one hand, and to promote and protect rapists on the other. On the face of it, Mukhtaran has lost the first round. Her rapists, well supported by the state institutions, freely roam in the streets of Meerwala, ready to launch yet more attacks. She on the other hand is confined to her house, her passport taken and her movements controlled and restricted by the PM’s adviser for how to keep women underdeveloped.

Resistance and protest against injustice and inequality are not a tradition of this land. Acceptance and surrender come more naturally – as if that is how God wished us to suffer. So how come a drop of water has brought a storm in the ocean, a pebble triggering an avalanche, a helpless, unarmed, single village woman taking on an entire country. Mukhtaran indeed has challenged the very soul of this country. She has exposed the sham and hollowness of its unrelentingly proclaimed façade of purity and holiness. This may turn out to be the most important ideological battle ever fought on this piece of land. If she wins, she would have initiated the dismantling of a series of dreadfully corrupt and incompetent institutions, reminding us of an advice given many years ago, “ Jis khet sey dehkan ko muyuser na ho rozi, us khet …….”. If however she looses , we are back to the wolves of status quo, who would continue raping the people and resources of this country till it may rightly and formally be called a Rapist Republic. It is thus important for all those who wish to see a change for better to understand the mechanics of this war, and how ordinary citizens may make a contribution to make Mukhtaran win.

How come a government, so inept at doing any thing right, managed to defeat Mukhtaran Mai hands down. How come its otherwise fragmented institutions managed to show such strong coordination and precision in all their moves. What made them all to gang up. Since the JHQ ( Jirga Head Quarter) three years back ordered the launch of a formation of rapists to assault a single helpless village woman , there has been no letup in the attacks from the rest of the rapist forces. The police parties did an excellent job at laying siege around the house of the victim. The Pinzer movement of the courts battalion succeeded in freeing the rapists, who are now available for launching fresh attacks on their defenceless victims. The mullahs and political parties by not coming to the help of Mukhtaran, gave a clear signal of siding with the rapists. The commander of the Islamabad Alliance, a woman advisor to the PM, made a three-pronged attack. Severing off Mukhtaran’s flanks, she succeeded in simultaneously confiscating Mukhtaran’s passport, putting her on the exit control list, and making her mother fall sick with an over night manufactured disease. The supreme commander watched the entire operation, along with a battalion of 56 freeloaders, holidaying at taxpayer’s expense, entrenched in a New Zealand hotel’s luxury suite.

Why is it that Pakistani institutions, politicians, military and mullahs are all so passionately in favour of rapists. Rape is a crime of power, and its threads can invariably be traced to the corridors of power. It is for this reason that our courts will have no hesitation in punishing even a blind woman rape victim, while the rapists will be allowed to go scot free. Recently, WAR (War Against Rape) asked four leading political parties to take a public position that they will abolish all Jirgas if they were to come to power. Not one of them showed even the slightest readiness to do so. When asked to make a public commitment that they will provide a one window, urgent and respectful support system (FIR, medical and judicial support) to rape victims, they were once again at a complete loss for words. Mukhtaran Mai is therefore fighting against institutions that are not just unsympathetic to her cause, but are active supporters and promoters of jirgas and the cause of rapists.

The assault on Mukhtaran Mai is an assault on all of us: on our dignity, our sanity, our sorrows of today and our hopes for tomorrow. The ordinary people of Pakistan must therefore join Mukhtaran in her struggle in every possible way they can think of. We can name our roads , schools, buildings and bridges after Mukhtaran, to honour her struggle. We can form local groups to voluntarily organise Rape Crisis Centres in every town (and village), which will protect and support the victims. We can 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 rape victims. We can push the major political parties to take a public position that on coming to power they would abolish Jirgas and create a judicial system that will take no more than one month to complete trials relating to rape cases. Perhaps we can demand that the Supreme Court should be renamed as the Mukhtaran Mai court of justice, to remind our future generations of the injustices that existed, “once upon a time”. To think of it, why can Islamabad not be re-named after Mukhtar Mai. The silent, dignified , courageous, victimised female from Meerwala symbolises not just the struggle of ordinary people against the tyranny of an unjust system, but also a hope for a better tomorrow.

Naeem Sadiq