SC upholds LHC verdict, Mai distressed | Pakistan Today

SC upholds LHC verdict, Mai distressed

Upholding the Lahore High Court (LHC) verdict in the Mukhtaran Mai gang-rape case, the Supreme Court on Thursday acquitted five of the six suspects and dismissed the appeals. A three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar announced its verdict, reserved earlier on January 27. According to the SC ruling, Abdul Khaliq will serve the full length of his life sentence. Aitzaz Ahsan appeared as counsel for Mukhtaran Mai, whereas Malik Muhammad Saleem appeared on behalf of the suspects. The appeals were filed by Mukhtaran Mai against a verdict of the Multan bench of the LHC commuting the sentence of one suspect and acquitting the abettors of the alleged gang-rape of Mai on June 22, 2002, on the orders of a panchayat (village council) convened by the influential Mastoi tribe in the village of Meerwala in southern Punjab.
The incident was widely condemned in the country and abroad. Mai, whose case garnered much attention in the West as an example of oppression suffered by Pakistani women, expressed her disappointment over the Supreme Court verdict. She said she would not file any appeal against Thursday’s judgement. “The police never even recorded my own statements correctly,” said Mai.
“I do not trust any court except the court of Almighty Allah. I have left the matter at the mercy of God,” she told AFP by telephone. “I don’t know what the legal procedure is, but my faith [in the system] is gone… There is a threat to me and my family. There is a threat of death, and even of the same thing happening again. Anything can happen,” she added.
Mai now runs a school for girls in her village, and has vowed that Thursday’s ruling will not force her to leave her home. “Life and death are in the hands of Allah… I will not shut my school and other projects,” she told Reuters.
In a quiet, tired voice, Mai spoke to Pakistan Today about the incident and said she was totally dejected about the acquittal. “For seven years I have been pushed around here and there, inside courts and outside courts … [only] to see this day … to see the day they let them lose once again?” she said, emotional strain almost cracking her voice. “I foolishly believed that I would win this case, 100 percent … no, I have been a victim of injustice,” she said.
Mai now waits for her lawyer to come and talk to her so she can sort the matter out legally. But she is not happy with the judicial process. “Appealing again would mean going back to seek help from the same people who ruled my case out, and back to the same old courts. What use would that be? But I will take advice from my lawyer,” she said. “I am heartbroken by this decision.”
Mai said her family and even other villagers had supported her throughout the case, but the culprits, who were known to be supported by land-owners, had just tipped the balance in their own favour.
In March 2005, the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) had suspended the LHC’s verdict on the grounds that the high court had no jurisdiction to hear appeals under Hudood laws. The controversy was settled after the Supreme Court took the matter into its own hands.
The punchayat had been called to seek punishment for Shakoor, the 12-year-old brother of Mai, for having illicit relations with a woman from a rival clan. It was suggested that Shakoor should marry the girl with whom he was accused of having a relationship, and Mai be married to a man of the Mastoi tribe, but the Mastois rejected the suggestion and insisted that the offence of fornication should be settled with fornication. Mai was called by the punchayat to apologise for the conduct of her brother, who had already been sodomised by the Mastois. She was allegedly dragged to a nearby hut and raped by four men.
A case was registered against 14 suspects under sections 109 and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act (7C and 21-1) and the Hudood Ordinance (10-4 and 11). Four of them were charged with raping Mai and the rest for abetting the crime.