By Malik Tahseen Raza
MUZAFFARGARH: Mukhtar Mai plans to file in a ‘couple of days’ a review petition against the acquittal of those accused of her gang-rape in 2002.
Exactly a week earlier, on April 21, the Supreme Court had rejected Mukhtar Mai’s appeals against the Lahore High Court’s acquittal of the accused.
The court, in a split decision, set free all but one of the 15 accused in a ruling that drew an angry reaction from rights groups and a cry in exasperation from Mai herself. She blamed the police for preparing a flawed case, and said she was now worried for her life.
It has taken her a few days to recover and be ready for another round of battle in the court. “I want justice,” she reiterated as she spoke to Dawn at her Meerwala office-cum-residence on Wednesday and said that she was going to knock at the court’s door again.
On the day, the small village in Jatoi tehsil offered two contrasting halves that make up the still unfolding story that first caught the attention nine long years ago.
On one side was the heavily guarded base of Mukhtaran that was thronged by civil society members including some journalists. This competed for attention with the outhouses and homes of men she identifies as her tormentors.
Faiz Mastoi, who was nominated as the chief of the panchyat accused of humiliating Mukhtar Mai, was found busy receiving people who had come to greet him on his release from jail.
The man had to be really persuaded into sharing his thoughts on the case with a representative of a media he was so wary of. He appeared to be looking for an end to hostilities.
From his standpoint, he and his co-accused now had the option of moving the court against Mukhtar Mai “for implicating us in a false case.” But then again, he kind of neutralised this expression of acrimony against Mai with statements such as “She is just like a daughter to me.”
The harshest criticism Mastoi reserved for the media. “We are the victims of misreporting by the media,” he pronounced. “We suffered nine years in jail only because of false reporting.”
“I have less than three acres of agriculture land,” he said as he challenged the details that had come out in the media coverage of the case.
“Does this make me a person more influential than the family of Mukhtar Mai which owns more land than me? What is our sin? We have already suffered a lot. Now when the court of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has released us, please let us live in peace.”
That this peace may stay elude him was spelt out in the tone and content of Mukhtar Mai’s message. “Shahbaz Sharif, Rehman Malik, Sharmila Farooqui and Sherry Rehman have all called me by telephone in the last 24 hours,” she said. “They say they are with me.”
Her supporters include many, many more. All she now needs is a convincing argument that can ensure a court reversal.