MULTAN, March 8: Canadian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Ms Margaret Huber, gave away a donation of Rs2.1 million to Mukhtar Mai for the promotion of education in her area.

The ambassador handed over the cheque in a ceremony held on Tuesday at the Mukhtar Mai Girls Primary School, Meerwala in Muzaffargarh district. Speaking on the occasion, Ms Huber said she was proud to be here in Meerwala to observe the international women day with Mukhtar Mai. She said Canada was pleased to make this contribution to highlight the extraordinary resolve which Mukhtar Mai had showed to fight for gender equity and the rights of women.

She said violence against women remained one of the greatest scourges not only in Pakistan but the world over. She eulogized Mukhtar Mai for utilizing donations made to her for the establishment of schools in her area. "She is the very spirit of international women day," the ambassador added.

Ms Huber said the terrible violence Mukhtar Mai suffered in the hands of her assailants would have broken spirit of anyone but she refused to be intimidated and instead opted to wage struggle for justice and education.

She also appreciated the response the community had shown against the violence in Mukhtar Mai case. "It is a regrettable truth that violence (against women) is rooted in the menace of illiteracy," she said.

The Canadian government has provided funds to Mukhtar Mai welfare Organization (MMWO) which is working in collaboration with the SPO (Strengthening Participatory Organizations).

The MMWO will construct four more rooms at the girls primary school with the Canadian donation besides, launching a livestock project to help support the school gain sustainability through its income.

Speaking on the occasion, Mukhtar Mai thanked the Canadian government for providing funds for her school and vowed to continue her struggle against illiteracy and gender inequalities.

Later, she and the high commissioner signed a memorandum of understanding for the project. Funds to the MMWO will be disbursed through Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Talking to the press, Ms Hubert said the agreement between the MMWO and CIDA was in the process for the last several months.

Mukhtar Mai had established girls and boys primary schools in her village with a donation of Rs 0.5 million given by President Gen Pervez Musharraf. The donation was made to show sympathy with her two and a half years ago when her ordeal had hit the headlines across the world.

During the trial of her case at the anti-terrorism court in Dera Ghazi Khan, the defence counsel had alleged that Mukhtar Mai had fabricated the whole story of gang-rape to collect donations.

Refuting the allegation categorically, she had announced while deposing before the court that the presidential grant would be spent for the purpose of education. The ATC had handed down death sentence to six of the accused, including two members of the 'panchayat,' on Aug 31, 2002. The convicts later challenged their conviction with the LHC's Multan bench.

A division bench of the court acquitted five of the six convicts while commuted death sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment, ruling that the evidences presented by the prosecution were insufficient and the police investigation in the case was flawed.

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