Supreme Court judgement on the Mukhtaran Mai case stirred a lively response from the women rights’ activists in the capital. Civil society members, activists and university students staged a protest under the banner of Awami Jahmoori Forum at D-Chowk on Thursday. They condemned the verdict given by the Supreme Court in which one of the accused, in the gang rape case of Mai, was sentenced to life sentence while others were set free. They claimed that the decision had shaken the confidence and the sense of security of the women in Pakistan.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Farzana Bari, a human rights’ activist said, “Our public has given justice to Muktaran Mai but unfortunately our courts have failed to do so.” She added the court-of-law had failed to ensure justice to the victim who had been fighting for it since long.
Moreover, she demanded for amendments to be made in the criminal justice legislation from a gender perspective and also recommended changes in the Evidence Act.
Students of different universities, Sadia Rabbani, Shaista Shakoor, Nida Malik had the same thing to say while talking to The Express Tribune.
“We are proud of Muktaran Mai and will fight for her till the time she gets justice,” said one of the students.
Earlier, a meeting was organised by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), members of Insani Huqooq Ittehad, including Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy and Mehergargh, among others.
They expressed deep shock and disappointment at the verdict given by the court. They added that the court’s orders reflected faulty investigation on the police’s part and the loop holes which were left intentionally to side with the power brokers
Members said the judgment did prove that Mai was raped because one accused was sentenced to life imprisonment, while others were acquitted.
“We are surprised to see why only one of the accused was punished and others were acquitted from the charges of ‘gang rape’. “The case has been a classic example of how facts are distorted and documentation of the evidence is tampered with at all levels,” said an activist.
The group expressed concerns at the long delays in dispensing justice saying that the victim was raped in 2002 on the instructions of the local panchayat (verdict of tribal elders). In 2005, the chief justice of the superior court took a suo moto notice of the case. Despite the intervention, it had taken more than nine years for the decision.
“We feel that the criminal justice system does not favour women and is patriarchal in nature. Impunity is the order of the day,” said another activist.
She added, “The outcome of Mai’s case discourages survivors of rape from reporting it.”
Chairperson, Anis Haroon demanded the government to review the criminal justice system as it had failed to give a justice to a ‘well-deserving’ woman.
Moreover, Samar Minallah, women rights’ activist said, “By giving such favours to the culprits, our courts have supported the jirga system.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2011.