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Mukhtaran Mai and Jamshed Dasti

By Atika Rehman

The writer is a sub-editor on the web desk of The Express Tribune and is an LLB graduate from the University of London

If the ruling party gives even an iota of a damn about women’s rights in Pakistan, it must immediately disown from its ranks Jamshed Dasti, a member of the National Assembly.

If his fake degree was not enough for the party to let go of him, his threats to Mukhtaran Mai last year, demanding that she withdraw the rape allegations, should have been enough. Unfortunately, neither of these episodes elicited any substantial condemnation from his party.

Fortunately for the PPP, Dasti has presented yet another opportunity for action to be taken against him. On Hamid Mir’s “Capital Talk”, the member of parliament openly accused Mai of cashing in on the case and said she enjoyed the globetrotting opportunities the case presented to her. He went on to swear on the Holy Quran that he was certain no gang rape had taken place and that he was grateful the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict had acquitted the “poor, innocent Mastoi men” who are the real maligned victims of this tragedy. As if this was not enough, he declared that the girls’ schools that Mai has started only cater to rich students.

His rant was punctuated by self-praise and the typical ‘what-about-Aafia?’ rhetoric. He not only believes that the SC verdict should be lauded, but is convinced that the number of people who are outraged by the apex court’s judgment is insignificant and small.

In the spirit of honesty and ministerial responsibility, Dasti and his party need to clarify some things. Perhaps he would do well to remember that the same court that declared his degree to be fake is the same one whose decision he is now lauding. Clearly, the irony in this is lost on this member of parliament.

On his show, Hamid Mir had also invited Mai to speak to those present via a telephone link. As her voice quivered with (to my surprise) anger instead of fear, the brave woman challenged Dasti to give proof of his ‘concrete belief’ that there had been no gang rape. Was he there when it happened, she asked him, and then asked the pertinent question: “Allah na karey, iss ki apni beti keh saath yeh hota to Jamshed Dasti sahab kya kehtay?”

It is unfortunate that a victim who has awaited justice for years is now being blackmailed and subjected to emotional torture by a parliamentarian.

The government, in particular the ruling PPP, must condemn this behaviour and reasses its stance on women’s empowerment specifically, and on human rights in general. How can they allow a person from their party to paint the men involved as victims, and worse, make Mai the villain?

In an effort to belittle her efforts, Dasti has, once again, sent a clear message to the women of this country that they are going to be threatened, maligned and defeated if they are raped.

Source: The Express Tribune