Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) legislator Jamshed Dasti has allegedly threatened gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai to withdraw her appeal in the Supreme Court against the accused rapists.
In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, Mukhtar Mai, an iconic character who came to the limelight for her brave fight for justice after being gang-raped, has alleged that MNA Jamshed Dasti is threatening her family through his emissaries to withdraw the case or face dire consequences.
In 2002, Mukhtar Mai, a woman from a remote district of Southern Punjab Muzaffargarh, was allegedly gang-raped by order of her tribal council as punishment for her younger brother’s alleged relationship with a woman from a powerful clan. Instead of living in shame, as is the case with most victims in Pakistan, Mukhtar set a valiant precedent by pursuing justice and knocking on the door of the court.
“Mr Dasti threatened me last week through his messengers in Mir Wala (Muzaffargarh) to withdraw my case from the apex court and to compromise with the Mastoi Brathery, 14 members of whom are in prison,” Mukhtar Mai said in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune.
Mukhtar also alleged that Dasti, through the supporters of Federal Minister for Defence Production, Sardar Qayyum Jatoi, whose constituency she lives in, is putting pressure on her family in all sorts of ways. She said that her 60-year-old father, who is a woodcutter by profession, had also been warned that he would have to face the music.
In a message to her brother Hazoor Bakhash, Jatoi’s supporters had been pressing the family to ask DPO Muzaffargarh to remove the police check post from outside their house, she said, adding that her family was in immense fear and did not know how they would survive in Mir Wala if this sort of pressure is kept up.
She said that she had visited Aitzaz Ahsan, her lawyer, in Lahore and briefed him on the situation last week, requesting him to ask the authorities concerned to ensure the safety of her and her family. Aitzaz, who she said has not charged a single penny for the case, asked her to keep resolute; the case, he ensured, will soon be taken up by the Supreme Court and justice will be delivered, said Mukhtar.
Meanwhile, when approached by The Express Tribune, an unabashed Jamshed Dasti, who is no stranger to controversy, confirmed that he had indeed requested Mukhtar to reach a compromise on the matter.
He claimed that the judgment delivered by the then Anti-Terrorism Court in the case was adversely affected by immense pressure from then president Pervez Musharraf and anti-Islamic lobbies. “I swear, the persons imprisoned in jail are innocent and the court has no justification giving the death sentence to the accused persons in a gang-rape case,” a furious Dasti said. The Supreme Court may take up the case and decide it within ninety days, he said, criticising Mukhtar as someone who distorted the image of Islam and played into the hands of non-Muslim NGOs.
When asked about Dasti’s unreserved comments, Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmood told The Express Tribune that the statements amount to ridiculing and defaming the court, which has announced a proper judgment after conducting proper proceedings.
Also pointing out that the matter is subjudice, Mehmood questioned how anyone can comment on the case. Mr Dasti’s comment on an under trial case, he said, primafacia amounts to contempt of court; he could be summoned by the apex court, he added.
Only affected persons can file an appeal to seek justice from the court, he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2010.