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The Mukhtar Mai Case

By Qaisar Sultan

The Supreme Court decisions rejecting the Lahore High Court acquittal appeal in the Mukhtar Mai case will have a direct impact on social attitudes towards women and weak members of Pakistani rural areas. The verdict in favor of depraved criminals’ minds to act upon their animalistic impulses without any fear of reprisal would have a very negative impact on the criminal justice in Pakistan. The Supreme Court in Pakistan has demonstrated that it represents the social attitudes of a decaying culture; judges are ordinary people from the same culture until and unless they stand above their ordinary upbringing with the force of their conviction and leaning to reflect profoundly into right and wrong. The Supreme Court panel has shown the core values of a corrupt culture and a total disregard for the protection of weak and vulnerable against the powerful and evil landowners with the help of the law enforcement. The kidnapping and rape of poor women and young girls are widespread sadistic and pervasive behavior in rural Pakistan. The perverted minds of Jagirdars, Vaderas and landowner have established the norms of the culture where women rights and the respect for the dignity of women is only unholy and non-religious absurdity of western mentality.  The Mukhtar Mai’s case is a great example of the underlying values of Pakistani culture. A woman was raped by a gang of “respected criminals” who had the money and power; the town Panchayat supported the decision to sodomize her younger brother and her rape- The Supreme Court condoned the immorality and wickedness of that culture. The world heard about her plight; she became the symbol of courage of a woman in a malicious and reprehensible customs. She stood tall to tell the world the way things were and still is in Pakistan. The Supreme Court’s implicit endorsement to the violence against poor women by the powerful men would have a long lasting effect on Pakistani rural traditions. The lower courts, controlled by local judges, would find support of their regular decision making practices against women of straw. 

Our Chief Justice must have read few lines regarding justice and mumble them in his speeches right after the Supreme Court decision in the Mukhtar Mai case.  While such a horrible precedence of denying the fundamental rights of a person was written by his court, he alluded to the true ideals of justice: “Judiciary keeps at a close watch to supervise and protect the fundamental rights of citizens- The courts flung into action the moment such rights are violated”. It is not only politicians, military official and religious politicians who say something in public opposed to what they do or believe in their real life; our judges are also part of that culture. May be he was right that his court flung to the justice conceived by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah- “They strengthen also the hands of the evildoers that none doth return from his wickedness in rich grazing lands of Canaan”. The problem is that the Chief Justice who was hailed as a hero is not a judicial scholar; he has been trying very hard to be a populace judge so that the nation should remember him as a courageous man. That is one reason that, most probably, he has taken more Suo Moto cases than any other judge; people out of frustration due to the callousness and corruption of politicians, police, and well connected powerful mafia asked him to get involved being an activist judge. The judiciary can have a great impact how society sees right and wrong; that does not imply that the system requires the involvement of the Chief Justice in administering the nation good or bad political and administrative affairs. The underlying courage of a judge is to make decision that is not only popular but against the evilness of powerful members against the weak members of the society. The cowardice has been shown by the Supreme Court when it could not stand with the weak. In Pakistan, everybody and every institution have to be looked upon with a great skepticism; there is always a possibility of payoff or a call from a friend or influential man to take care of “things”. There is a saying: a judge is a lawyer who knew the governor (in Pakistan: a Jagirdar, politician, minister, police or military officer or vadera).

More than the Supreme Court culpability in this case, Lahore High Court has shown a pernicious laxity in adjudicating in a manner that would not bring a positive social change and attitudes of powerful men; they are all part of that male chauvinistic attitude. The LHC justices are well aware of the rural traditions and the influence of powerful men in Pakistan. The obvious police corruption and known lack of empathy of Pakistani police for the poor victims, especially in the case of a poor woman, did not give those judges some time for the reflection and a pause. They did not care that the case was a high profile internationally known case that was decided based upon decrepit police investigation and delay in registry a case with police have been made the basis for the acquittal. One of the reasons for the disregard of woman rights by the law enforcement and judiciary is that Pakistani and Muslim countries have limited vision of women roll in a society. The absurdity in orthodox opinion that women are created for the purpose of men; and not for the mutual benefits for each other has evolved into a culture of submissive women and belligerent men. The education is supposed to change that conformist mindset that drives its dynamism from fictitious religious arguments; even the inheritance laws have been manipulated for the male dominance. In established rape case, woman should not be required to answer the filthy details of animalistic demeanor of the rapist to save the women from embarrassment. The proven rapists in the Mukhtar Mai case should have been hanged to death. The police department should have been chastised and all of those fiendish police officers involved in neglecting and delaying the due process should have been fired. As with most issues, the paradox in Pakistan life style, point of views and religious outlook are so immense that one cannot figure out the Pakistani culture. We find the most forward looking and progressive women who can stand toe to toe with any other women in the world; then you see that the women in Pakistan are still treated so poorly and abused by the husbands, police and finally by the judges. The Supreme Court that is supposed to protect all the citizens could not comprehend the consequential and detrimental effects of their decision in this case. If some sort of revolution has to come in Pakistan, it has to include women with drastically changing the way women are being treated in rural areas, especially poor women.  The poor women of Pakistan cannot expect any possible relief from the police, Vaderas and Jagirdars; and of course not from the Supreme Court and Lahore High Court.

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