ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought all the evidence in the infamous Mukhtar Mai rape case.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Saqib Nisar had taken up a review petition filed by Mukhtar Mai on Thursday. The bench sought the complete case record, but was informed that the evidence was not available in the court’s records, as it had been sent back to the trial court.
Through a petition filed on May 19, 2011 before the apex court, Mukhtar Mai sought review of the April 21, 2011 verdict that rejected her appeals for the enhancement of the sentence of her rapists and challenged the acquittal of those who had gang raped her over 12 years ago.
Appearing on behalf of the petitioner, senior counsel Aitzaz Ahsan argued that there were at least nine instances where evidence had not been noticed, which was enough to prove that the 2011 judgment could not be sustained and was therefore contrary to the fundamental rules of dispensation of justice.
In August 2002, an Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) had sentenced six men to death; four for raping Mukhtar Mai while two for being part of the jirga that issued the decree to that effect. The remaining eight were released and subsequently freed.
Later, the Multan bench of the Lahore High Court commuted the sentence of the accused (Abdul Khaliq) in its March 3, 2005 judgment, but also acquitted the abettors who gang-raped Mai on June 22, 2002 on the orders of a village panchayat, convened by the influential Mastoi tribe in the Southern Punjab village of Meerwala. The incident instantly invited criticism and aroused international attention at that time.
The village council was convened by the Mastoi tribe to seek punishment for Mai’s brother Shakoor, who was 12 years old at the time. Shakoor was accused of having an illicit relationship with a young girl, and the council suggested that he be married to the girl in question, while his elder sister Mai should be married to a man from the Mastoi tribe.
But the Mastois rejected the deal and insisted that the offence of adultery should be repaid with adultery.
Subsequently, Mukhtar Mai was called by the council to apologise for her brother’s conduct. He had already been sexually assaulted by the Mastoi men and she too was allegedly dragged to a nearby hut and gang raped by four men.
But the Supreme Court, by a majority of two to one, dismissed appeals of Mukhtar Mai. However, the court maintained that Abdul Khaliq, the principal accused out of a total of 14 suspects, would continue to serve out his life sentence. In its detailed judgment, the apex court also ordered the release of all the accused who were arrested on its order of July 28, 2005.
In her review plea, Mukhtar Mai stated the verdict rendered by the apex court was a great miscarriage of justice.
Published in Dawn, September 18th , 2014