Mukhtaran Mai: Not just another rape victim
Read the below item #1 for the importance of Mukhtaran Mai's courageous
struggle, and the message which seems to have escaped Nicholas
Kristoff, the NYT's self-ordained "feminist" of the third millennium:
"If she [Mukhtaran Mai] loses her battle even after so much domestic
and international publicity, then no woman in Pakistan can hope to get
justice. That is why it is critically important that Mukhtaran Mai wins
a fight which is not hers alone any more but has implications for the
rights of all Pakistani women"!
With this in mind, Mukhtaran Mai's ultimate victory lies not, as Mr
Kristoff seems to believe, in her freedom to tell her horrendous story
abroad, but in the ultimate verdict of Pakistan's Supreme Court when it
takes up her case on June 27 [see item #2].
Over centuries we can recall the power of one, none more than the brave
Mukhtaran Mai herself, but to overlook the millions she, as too past
and present brave activists, represents is to ignore her ultimate cause
A luta continua! - Lynette
#1 The News International - Pakistan
Monday June 20 2005-- Jamadi Al Awwal 12, 1426 A.H.
Not just another rape victim
Their patriarchal vision prevents our rulers from seeing how Mukhtaran
Mai's visit could have broken the stereotypical images of Pakistani
women as passive victims of violence, unaware of their rights and
unable to stand up for themselves
Violence against women is nothing new: it happens around the world,
including Pakistan. So why such a fuss over one gang rape at Meerwala,
near Multan? Have NGOs blown Mukhtaran Mai's case out of proportion to
raise funds from donor agencies, as critics contend?
With few organisations taking up the issue of violence against women on
a sustained and wide-scale level, the response of non-government or
civil society organisations in Pakistan to such incidents is often
reactive. The tendency is to strongly take up those few cases that have
wider implications, preferably with the survivor willing to fight back.
Mukhtaran Mai's is one such case. It has assumed critical importance
for two reasons. Firstly, it raises several structural issues by
exposing the gendered nature of our state and community institutions,
and secondly, it breaks the myth of women as passive victims of
The case challenges the existence and legitimacy of parallel judicial
systems in the country, and highlights their anti-women nature and
inability to dispense justice. First, a panchyat ordered that Mukhtaran
be gang raped. Then, the Multan Bench of Lahore High Court (LHC)
acquitted five out of six who were awarded death sentence by the
Anti-Terrorist Court. The Federal Shariat Court took suo moto notice of
this verdict on the grounds that it was a Hudood case that the Lahore
High Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear. The Supreme Court
then issued another suo moto notice.
The LHC's acquittal of five accused out of six due to lack of evidence
and the long delay in hearing Mukhtaran's appeal filed in the Supreme
Court (despite its suo moto notice three months ago, the proceedings
have not even begun yet) raises serious questions about the criminal
justice system and the higher courts' ability to dispense justice.
The entire village community witnessed Mukhtaran being dragged off to
be raped and her state as she emerged. Yet the accused were set free
due to lack of evidence. There is something seriously wrong with a
justice system that requires evidence that is impossible for the rape
victim to produce, and which shifts the burden of proof on her. There
is a need for a complete overhaul of our criminal justice system from a
Thirdly, the case highlights the link between public and private
patriarchy and the issue of the family and the state's control over
women's lives. Mukhtaran was gang raped for her young brother's
supposed transgression -- he was accused of having an affair with a
woman from the Mastoi tribe. Since women are considered men's property,
and the notion of 'honour' resides in the bodies of women, the
panchayat allowed the Mastoi men to reclaim their 'honour' by raping
the sister of the "accused" boy.
When Mukhtaran decided to register an FIR, her father begged her not to
and her brother threatened to commit suicide. They wanted to silence
her, knowing that her search for justice publicise the case and bring
'dishonour' to the family. They were more concerned with protecting
their 'honour' than obtaining justice.
In trying to prevent Mukhtaran from travelling to the United States,
the government assumed the role of a patriarch and took control of her
life. , placing her name on the Exit Control List, restricting her
movement, putting her under virtual house arrest and pressurising her
to change her mind about travelling abroad.
Their fear that her visit would tarnish the country's reputation and
negatively impact their efforts to project a 'moderate' and 'soft'
image of Pakistan reflects our rulers' feudal mindset.
They have done more damage to the 'moderate' image by victimising her
and disrespecting her right to travel, freedom of movement and
expression, than her visit could have done.
Their patriarchal vision prevents our rulers from seeing how
Mukhtaran's visit could have broken the stereotypical images of
Pakistani women as passive victims of violence, unaware of their rights
and unable to stand up for themselves.
In mishandling the case the government also exposed its rhetorical
position on public-private partnerships and stated commitment towards
providing an enabling environment to enlightened, progressive forces
and civil society organisations. Frustrated by the NGOs' commitment to
stand by Mukhtaran against the government oppression, President Pervez
Musharraf termed them "as bad as extremist groups".
Two ministers, Shahzad Waseem, state minister of Interior and Nilofar
Bukhtiar, special adviser on women's development to the Prime Minister,
made derogatory remarks against NGOs. The tension between the
government and the civil society has taken a new turn; some NGOs have
now announced that they will terminate their partnerships with the
government if it does not tender a public apology.
Mukhtaran Mai's resolve to get justice has become a rallying point for
human and women's right activists. She has become a symbol of
resistance and women's agency, and is considered an icon of the
struggle for justice of Pakistani women.
If she loses her battle even after so much domestic and international
publicity, then no woman in Pakistan can hope to get justice. That is
why it is critically important that Mukhtaran Mai win a fight which is
not hers alone any more but has implications for the rights of all
The writer heads the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies at the Quaid-e-Azam University
DAWN - Pakistan
Sunday June 19 2005-- Jamadi Al Awwal 11, 1426 A.H.
SC to take up Mukhtaran case on 27th
By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, June 18: Taking notice of reaction to the rape case of
Mukhtaran Mai, the Supreme Court has decided to start sifting the facts
on June 27 to reach the truth, sources said.
A three-member bench comprising Chief Justice-designate Justice
Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas and Justice Saiyed
Saeed Ashhad would take up two appeals and a Supreme Court suo motu
notice, pending for more than three months.
Mukhtaran Mai, who attracted international attention when her name was
put on the exit control list (ECL) and her passport was seized to
discourage her from visiting US on the invitation of Asian-American
Network Against Abuse of Human Rights (ANAA), had challenged Lahore
High Court's acquittal of the accused involved in the famous Meerwala
rape case on the orders of a tribal council. Similarly the Punjab
government had also appealed before the apex court against the high
While on March 14, the Supreme Court intervened to end an inter-court
controversy by staying separate orders of the Lahore High Court and the
Federal Shariat Court (FSC) by deciding to hold its own hearing.
The SC had to take the matter into its hands when the FSC suspended
LHC-Multan Bench order of acquitting convicts involved in the rape by
declaring high court's judgment as coram-non-judice (without
jurisdiction). Earlier on March 3, LHC-Multan Bench had overturned
convictions of five men sentenced to death in 2002 for raping Mukhtaran
Mai on the orders of a tribal council for her brother's alleged affair,
but commuted to life imprisonment, the death penalty of sixth convict
for attacking Mukhtaran Mai.
Taking suo motu notice, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nazim Hussain
Siddiqui had summoned the entire record of the case from the high court
and the FSC, while notices were served on Punjab Advocate-General Aftab
Iqbal and Mukhtaran Mai. Bailable arrest warrants were issued against
the accused, acquitted by the high court but later rearrested on the
direction of the prime minister.