The Pakistan Supreme Court has made a shocking mockery of the entire Pakistan judiciary including itself, and certainly of justice as well, by acquitting all but one accused in the infamous Mukhtaran Mai Gang Rape Case.
A resident of Meerwala village in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan, Mukhtaran Bibi (now widely known as Mukhtaran Mai) was gang raped on the orders of a local tribal council of the Mastoi Baloch clan.
The harrowing incident was actually the final outcome of a series of incidents. It all began when Mukhtaran’s brother Shaqoor, who is from Tatla clan, was accused of having an affair with Salma (aka Nasim), a lady from Mastoi Baloch clan. This resulted in tensions as the Mastoi Baloch clan is more rich and powerful than the Tatla clan, i.e. the clan of Shaqoor and Mukhtaran.
However, the trial court came up with the verdict that there was no supporting evidence against Shaqoor’s “misdeed”. But as everybody knows that in Pakistan’s tribal areas Kangaroo courts are more powerful than formal judicial organs, Salma’s family decided to take the law in their own hands. They abducted Shaqoor, and got him sodomized. This now further resulted in a series of charges and counter-charges. And finally came that fateful day, when, empowered with the backing of a local tribal council, Salma’s brother Abdul Khaliq and his aides dragged Mukhtaran inside a stable and garg raped her for full one hour. And yes, that was not all. After that she was paraded naked in the village in full public view.
The hue and cry raised by the Pakistan media and civil society forced the government to initiate actions. The trial court came up with the verdict that the accused were indeed guilty, and awarded death sentence to them. But the accused appealed to the Lahore High Court, and the latter acquitted five of the six accused on the basis of “insufficient evidence”. It was in 2005.
Within days of the Lahore High Court verdict the Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo moto cognizance of the case. And on 21st April 2011, after 6 years, it has come with its loan awaited verdict which upholds Lahore High Court’s verdict – acquittal of all but one accused.
There is probably hardly any doubt that Mukhtaran Bibi will remember 21st April 2011 as a day equally “black” as the day on which she was gang raped by some beasts in the garb of human beings. On that fateful day she was raped by miscreants. And on the “Judgment Day” she found her hope for justice to be raped by the weak judiciary of her country. She had waited for 6 years to see those bastards finally getting punished for the heinous crime that they dared to commit. Instead, now she will have to bear the pain of watching them moving freely, an experience that will far aggravate the pain of bearing the memory of her harrowing experience.
It may have been so that the Judiciary did not have enough evidence to punish the accused. But would it have been so difficult for the honourable judiciary to gather some key evidences, if it were really sincere about it? And yes, what was the role of the investigating agencies? How could they fail to collect enough evidences given the fact that the crime was committed in full public view? Was it simply a case of professional incompetence? Or is it so that they were not serious about the investigation in the first place?
There should be immediate initiation of investigation to find out whether a section of the government connived with the accused. And, if anybody is found to be guilty, then he should be awarded with strongest possible punishment, which will act as a deterrent for other “potentially” erring government functionaries.
The Mukhtaran Mai gang rape case verdict will remain as a “black chapter” in the history of Pakistan’s judiciary. It is a different matter that the history of the said judiciary is already replete with a number of “black chapters”, and is likely to have more.