Ordinary Citizens
March 26, 2019
Police Desrve Respect And Protection
March 26, 2019

Patronage  of  Rape


Pakistan’s bravest woman finally lost the battle that she single-handedly fought with the rest of Pakistan.  Eight years and 10 months down the road, the apex court of the country handed down its 82 page judgment, that may or may not withstand the touchstone of justice, but it surely conveyed a powerful,  startling and unambiguous message to the people of Pakistan.  An unwritten message  that the story of Mukhtran Mai’s gang rape was not entirely true, that it appeared a case of delusion and that she perhaps suffered from  bouts of lacunar amnesia.  The rapists were  in fact men of great honour and tradition. Five out of six of them immediately deserved to be set free and allowed to go home  dancing and celebrating,  so that their ‘honourable  jirgas’  could sponsor yet more opportunities for raping the weak and helpless.  The state institutions were essentially there to protect and  patronise this politically  sanctioned and culturally accepted  act of bravery.  The women of Pakistan must continue to suffer while the state must always find a way out for those who indulge in this and other similar crimes.


The conclusion arrived at by the court   has saddened the hearts of many who built their hopes for a better tomorrow on  a judicial system that could differentiate  between narrow  clerical procedures  and higher principles of justice or at least  between right and brazen wrong.   Why must this be the only country in the world where a ‘jirga’ (a  medieval  but officially condoned version of a village high court) can order or supervise the rape of a woman.   Why must it be the only country where a high court and a supreme court  would   find nothing wrong with a women formally presented for rape to  four men in front of a large gathering and consider  it judicially appropriate to set  the culprits free.    The  fact that   insufficient evidence and faulty police investigation were a hindrance in the carriage of justice  was acknowledged but overlooked in favour of the rapists.


The  assault on Mukhtaran Mai exposed the vulnerability and helplessness of every woman,  just as the decision of the court lends a question mark to the dignity, sanity and security of every citizen of this country.  For the survivors of this much patronised crime, the judgment considerably reduces any future expectations of justice from within the judicial system. On the contrary it reinforces the path adopted by the Meerwala ‘jirga’ as a preferred method of conflict resolution. Why was it not possible for the  court to order a re-investigation, just as it has done so in many recent cases. Why was the village ‘jirga’ not taken to task for proposing and patronising  such despicable deals.  Why were the policemen not held accountable for conducting a faulty investigation or failing  to produce the real culprits?  These and many other questions point towards a systemic failure of our  judicial system. The 350 million dollar  ‘access to justice’ loan (read gimmick) may have benefitted many consultants and middlemen, but has not  taken us an inch forward on the road to justice.  If it takes eight  years and ten months to come to a conclusion in such a high profile  landmark case,  the courts are not likely to be radiating hope or confidence for the ordinary citizens. A court case is now synonymous with an unending ritual of ‘next hearings’ and a pocketful of fee for the legal fraternity that is normally happy to let the show go on forever.


Despite a high court  ruling, for  sixty long years, we could not,  stop the ‘elders’ of this land from holding ‘jirgas’ and handing over women for rape or ‘karo kari’.  For sixty long years we could not establish women police stations that could receive a complaint, conduct a medical examination and register  an FIR  for a rape survivor,  in a civilised and efficient manner.  This  process is in fact so complex, humiliating, corrupt and incompetent that it overshadows the  trauma and the humiliation of the original crime.


Mukhtaran Mai  symbolised the   struggle  of  ordinary people   against the tyranny of an unjust system.    The state institutions however have collectively connived to prove her wrong.  The political parties have shown no interest in abolishing ‘jirgas’, supporting women, punishing rapists, abolishing practices like karo kari or stopping hatemongering from religious platforms.    It is time for the people of Pakistan to demand and  push for major structural  reforms in the criminal justice process. Can the setback suffered be converted into a sustained and organised effort for judicial reform instead of the   knee-jerk emotional responses of anger, press statements  and protests.


Naeem Sadiq

Express tribune April 2011