Mukhtar Mai of Meerwala village, in the South Punjab region of Pakistan has been threatened with “grave consequences” if she does not drop her case against the men who gang-raped her in 2002. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is due to hear the case next week.
The Bohemia Foundation reports:
On December 11, 2008 a message was sent to Mukhtar Mai by Sardar Abdul Qayyum, a sitting Federal Minister for Defense Production, to drop the charge against the accused. According to Mukhtar Mai, the Minister called her uncle Ghulam Hussain and passed on a message to Mukhtar that she should drop the charges against the 13 accused of the Mastoi tribe who were involved either in the verdict against Mukhtar or gang raped her. The Minister said that if she does not comply, he and his associates will not let the Supreme Court’s decision go in favor of Mukhtar. It is believed that the Mastoi clan has political influence of sufficient weight to bring pressure to bear on the Supreme Court.
Mukhtar was gang raped on the order of a council of elders (panchayat) as punishment for her 12-year-old brother’s alleged affair with a woman of a higher clan, the Mastoi. Instead of taking her “punishment” quietly Mukhtar decided to speak out. Common custom would have been for her to commit suicide. Instead, she went to the police, her rapists were apprehended and an Anti-Terrorist Court sentenced six men to death; four for raping her and two for being a part of the panchayat that decreed the rape. The remaining eight accused were released. The government of Pakistan also awarded Mukhtar a judgment equivalent to $8,000 with which she started a school for girls. But in March 2005, the Lahore High Court reversed the trial court’s ruling. Five of the six were acquitted, while the death sentence of the sixth was commuted to life imprisonment. Mukhtar appealed and the case has been pending in the Supreme Court since July 2005.
During her last visit to the United States in 2007, Mukhtar gave an audience in Sacramento a progress report on her efforts. “First there was no school — now there is a school. There was no light — now there is light. There were three students — now there are 1,000 — and people know how to fight oppression.”