Minister pressing to withdraw case, alleges Pakistani rape victim
hussain | February 7, 2009 at 11:37 pmby
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A Pakistani woman human rights activist, renowned worldwide for her gang-rape a few years ago, has accused a minister of state of pressuring her to withdraw the case against her rapists.
Human rights activist Mukhtaran Mai has accused Federal Minister of State for Defence Production Qayyum Jatoi of pressuring her to withdraw the case against her rapists.
She also condemned political influence and interference in her case and appealed to the government to take immediate and appropriate measures to ensure transparent proceeding of her case in the Supreme Court.
She stated this while addressing a press conference here on Friday.
Mukhtaran, hailing from Meerwala village, Jatoi Tehsil, was subjected to gang rape in 2002 as an honour revenge on orders of a ‘Punchayat’ of the local Mastoi Baloch clan.
In July 2002, the chief justice of Pakistan called her rape the most heinous crime of the 21st century. He summoned the concerned senior police officials and castigated them for incompetence in their handling of the case, she said.
She said her attackers and members of the so-called ‘Punchayat’ were sentenced to death by the Dera Ghazi Khan Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) but on March 2005 five of the six men sentenced to death were acquitted by the Lahore High Court.
She said the Shariat Court had later overruled the LHC verdict and the accused were arrested again but the very next day the Supreme Court had ruled that the Shariat Court did not have the authority to overrule the decision and decided to hear this case in the apex court. The case has been lying pending there for the last three years, she said.
Mukhtaran Mai said that Federal Minister Qayyum Jatoi, who hails from the same area, called upon her uncle Ghulam Hussain at his residence on December 1.
The minister reportedly asked Mukhtaran Mai’s uncle to drop the charges against the thirteen accused of the Mastoi tribe. “These accused were involved either in the verdict of the Panchayat against me or were guilty of the gang rape,” she maintained.
Qayyum Jatoi, she said, threatened that if Mukhtaran Mai did not comply with his instructions, he and his associates would not let the Supreme Court’s decision go in her favour.
Meanwhile, talking to The News, Qayyum Jatoi rejected the allegations levelled against him in the press conference.
He said Mukhtaran Mai was levelling such kind of wild allegations against him only to get some cheap popularity in the media. The minister of state claimed that neither had he met Mukhtaran Mai nor did make any telephone call to ask such kind of favours. Jatoi said many of the people behind the bars were innocent and they were just being punished for none of their fault.
He said that some people had been discussing that the victimisation of those innocent people, who did not have anything to do with the whole case, should come to an end. But, he said there was no truth in the reports that he had put any pressure on Mai. He, however, said he had visited her house along with Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and since then he never talked to her.
The international community has expressed considerable concern over the issue. Mukhtaran Mai, who has become an icon for women rights activists all over the world, was received by US Ambassador Ann W Patterson on Friday. She met envoys of many other Western countries on Saturday.
She said it was ironic that this treatment was being meted out to her in the government of Benazir Bhutto’s party. “Benazir Shaheed sympathised with my cause and conveyed her message that she wanted to come to my village Meerwala,” she said. “It hurts me to say that one of the messages was sent by Qayyum Jatoi,” she regretted.
It was being reported that many felt that Jatoi was feeling threatened by the rising popularity of Mukhtaran Mai. She is fast becoming a beacon of hope for the suppressed of Jatoi Tehsil and beyond. When people cannot find justice they come to Mukhtaran Mai, said her lawyer Rashid Rehman.
Her counsel feared conspiracy behind these threats. “It betrays the fact that they were trying to manipulate the case,” he said.
In a letter to the president and the prime minister, she has demanded of the federal government that Qayyum Jatoi should be held accountable for his interference in a sub judice matter and for pressurising her to drop charges against the perpetrators.
She said, “I repeat loudly that I have not given in to the powerful in the past and I am committed not to do so always, not for myself but for all those women subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment. I was never alone and I will not be alone in this struggle.”