The government has promised security and legal assistance to gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai who says her life is under threat after the Supreme Court dismissed her appeal and released five of the six accused in a 2002 case that attracted international attention.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the National Assembly on Friday that the federal government will ask Punjab authorities to deploy provincial police for the security of Mai at her remote village in Muzaffargarh district.
Malik said that he had been directed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to provide legal assistance to Mai, who challenged taboos to fight a long and tiresome war in courts after she was gang raped on the orders of a village council or a punchayat.
The Supreme Court decision on Thursday received widespread criticism from within and outside Pakistan with rights bodies and activists calling it a verdict that would encourage sexual abuse of women in the country.
However, a three-member bench that acquitted most of accused cited lack of evidence for their decision. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Friday said that ‘weak prosecution made justice difficult’ in an apparent reference to the Mai’s case.
After Malik’s assurance to the house, Federal Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan also said that the government would support Mai if she wished to file a review petition against the verdict.
Both Rehman and Awan, however, did not clarify whether the government itself could file a review petition as demanded by a female parliamentarian from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
MNA Sherry Rehman on a point of order said that Mukhtaran Mai was fighting for justice for the last nine years and only one of the accused was given life imprisonment while the rest were free to walk.
She called upon the government to file a review petition for Mai and provide her with security. After Thursday’s decision, Mai told BBC Urdu from her native village that she felt too tired to continue fighting and had lost faith in the justice system.
Meanwhile in the National Assembly, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said that the payment of compensation to Budha Khel and Bshandgan tribes for the construction Diamer-Bhasha Dam was not being distributed properly and equally.
He said that the prime minister during his expected visit to the area should look into the matter to avoid any injustice.
Former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao also appealed the government to take pragmatic measures for maintaining law and order situation in Kurram agency.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2011.