Mukhtaran Mai seeks stay order to halt execution of LHC verdict
07 March, 2005
MULTAN, March 08 (Online): Mukhtaran Mai, who has become a symbol of resistance for Pakistani women after her brave fight against her oppressors, has asked the government to seek a stay order to halt the execution of the Lahore High Court verdict that acquitted her alleged rapists last week.
Addressing a rally here attended by more than 6,000 women activists, political party workers and civil society representatives from all over Pakistan, Mukhtaran said that she feared for her life after the recent acquittal of the five men who were earlier condemned to death by an anti-terrorism court in the famous Mirawala case. "I request the government to keep the five men in prison until I file my appeal against the court verdict in the Supreme Court," she said, amid loud slogans of solidarity and support by protestors who were holding placards and banners inscribed with demands for social, political and economic mainstreaming of women.
The rally was organized by Pattan Development Organization, Women Councillors Network and South Punjab NGO Forum (SPNF) on the occasion of the International Women's Day due March 8. The day is celebrated worldwide to recount the achievements and successes women have attained over the previous year. However, for Pakistani women, the outgoing year was punctuated by the betrayal by the state, deceit by the judiciary and letdown by politicians and the government.
The women activists looked back with anger at the slash of the Union Council seats from 21 to 13, the unfortunate verdict in the Mirawala case and procrastination of politicians and government on the repeal of laws discriminatory against women. "The government claims that it is progressive and forward looking, but when it comes to the issues of women and their demands, it is as conservative as any other government in the past," said rights activist Dr. Farzana Bari, who denounced the state-mullah-feudal clique as responsible for the prevalent conditions in the country.
"They do not have the right to rule if they cannot even protect the right to life of 50 percent population in the country. If this continues, the women of Pakistan will rise and snatch what is rightfully theirs," said Dr. Bari.
Mustafa Baloch, the SPNF coordinator, criticised the verdict in the Mirawala case, calling it a sickening gift of the judiciary to the Pakistani women for the International Women's Day. He said that the government must keep all those acquitted in the case in prison as their release would endanger Mukhtaran's life. "Justice must be given to Mukhtaran. What happened to her was real and cannot be brushed under legal complexities and procedures," he said.
While declaring support to Mukhtaran, Musarrat Cheema of the Women Councillors Network said that such injustices would keep on crushing women as long as they do not assert their power in the political arena. "I strongly denounce the government for slashing the number of seats in the Union Councils. This is only meant to politically marginalize women, peasants, labourers and minorities and sustain elite dominance," she said.
Sarwar Bari, National Coordinator of Pattan, said that the government's claim of empowering people is nothing more than a charade that was enacted to appease the international community. The reversal of devolution and the continuance of anti-women laws are just the few manifestations of the government's double speak. "A pro-people change can only come through inter-related legal, political and administrative reforms which are decided by the people and not the military, mullah, feudal lords and tribal chiefs," he said.
Also spoke on the occasion were rights activist Tahira Abdullah, WCN's Um-e-Kulsoom and Bushra Adial, labour leader Mian Abdul Qayoom and minority leader Rasheed Bibi.
Earlier, the rally started at Allama Iqbal Park, where busloads of activists from various parts of the country stared to pour in early in the morning. The Pattan Lok Natak kept the participants engaged with their absorbing street theatre performances, as groups of women sang songs of resistance and change. The participants started their march to the Multan Arts Council around noon, chanting loud slogans against injustices, discrimination, violations and dishonour.
They demanded of the government to abandon its proposed amendments to slash the Union Council seats, as it would lead to complete control of the elite on institutions that are meant to reflect people's aspirations. They also called on the government to immediately scrap all black laws, including the Hudood Ordinance, which have only strengthened women's oppression in Pakistani society. Similarly, strong demands were raised for progressive legislation to curb all forms of honour killing and use of women in male dispute settlement.