Pakistan: Interference in the case of Mukhtar Mai

The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network is deeply concerned by the fact that a sitting Federal Minister, Mr. Qayyum Jatoi, has pressured Mukhtar Mai, the well-known women’s human rights defender, to drop charges against the accused in her case.
In 2002, 14 men from the dominant Mastoi tribe in Meeranwalla, Pakistan volunteered to rape Ms Mukhtar Mai as a way to settle a score after her 12-year-old brother Abdul Shakoor was seen walking with a Mastoi girl. The decision on retribution had been taken by a village court to preserve tribal honour. The jirga, or council of village elders, summoned Ms Mai to apologise for her brother's sexual misdeed. When she apologised, they gang-raped her anyway.

After the atrocity was carried out, Ms Mai was paraded naked before hundreds of onlookers. Finally, her father covered her with a shawl and took her home.

Mukhtar Mai, an unmarried daughter from a low-caste family, was not about to go quietly. She fought back in the courts and at first the legal decisions appeared to go her way. Half a dozen men involved in her rape were punished, with two sentenced to death. But since that early success events have begun to take an increasingly sinister and depressing turn. In 2005, a court in Lahore refused to extend a 90-day detention order and 12 of the 14 accused were ordered to be released. The case has gone into appeal, and now is expected to go to the Supreme Court.

WLUML received news that Ms. Mukhtar Mai's case will be heard in the Pakistan Supreme Court in the second week of February 2009. However, reports suggest that a Federal Minister, Mr. Qayyum Jatoi, has pressured Ms. Mai into dropping charges against the accused. This represents a serious miscarriage of justice.

We demand that the authorities ensure the trial of those accused of attacking Ms. Mai goes ahead without interference, and that Ms. Mai be protected from any pressure to drop her case.

WLUML Networkers