JUBAIL, SAUDI ARABIA: The acquittal by the Supreme Court of five of the six men charged with raping Mukhtaran Mai is perplexing. I say this because it seems that the grounds for rejecting the appeal filed by Mai against a Lahore High Court verdict five years ago was concentrated on issues that one would normally think are the norm in a society such as Pakistan’s.
For example, the court asked why the woman’s uncle didn’t try to stop the gang rape while he was present outside the room where it was supposedly taking place, and why the victim took a week to register a case with the police. From this, it appears as if the honourable judges did not realise how people from low-income backgrounds live in this country and the kind of harassment they face because of their low social and financial status.
South Punjab, where the incident took place, is dominated by feudals and they have complete control of the local police. Hence, no one dare challenge them, let alone seek to register a case with the police against them.
Furthermore, this is the same court that, in recent weeks, has called in senior police officials, senior FIA officials, officers of intelligence agencies, bureaucrats and even ministers for questioning — it makes one wonder why that wasn’t done in this particular case as well. And why did the court not deem it fit to order a re-investigation?
Following the verdict, PPP MNA Sherry Rehman tried to debate the verdict on the floor of the National Assembly but was disallowed by the deputy speaker — he said that there could be no criticism of the court’s decisions. It has now emerged that a review petition will be filed by Mai’s lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, but what can come of it given that the same court is going to hear it?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2011.