On April 21, 2011 the Supreme Court of Pakistan announced the verdict on Mukhtar Mai’s case. According to the verdict, the initial judgment of the Lahore High Court was upheld and five out of six accused in Mai’s gang rape were acquitted. Various news channels covered the acquittal including several talkshows, which invited Mukhtar Mai for her reaction on the verdict. One of them was Mubashir Lucman, host of a popular talk show on an Urdu news channel.
Dear Mr. Mubashir Lucman,
This is in reference to your talkshow covering the Supreme Court’s verdict of Mukhtar Mai’s case. I must begin with confessing that I have never been an avid viewer of your show. In fact, I usually avoid it owing to your unnecessarily harsh tone, which often tends to cross over basic journalism ethics. Despite that, I was not expecting the kind of tone, body language and overall journalistic misconduct demonstrated by you on the show.
You began the show by introducing Mai in the most insulting and derogatory way possible. Allow me to quote you: “Unhon nay poori dunya ka daura bhi karliya, poori dunya main chakar bhi laga liyay, or koi rafai kaam karnay ki bhi koshish ki”
“She has travelled extensively and has also ‘tried’ to do some welfare work.”
As evident by your baseless statement made on the show, you have little or no background information on Mai’s case. Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organisation have been working since 2003. The organisation has set up schools, one of which currently provides education to over 500 girls from nursery to Matric. Apart from, that the organisation also has built a shelter home and operates an ambulance service. If these records are anything to go by, Mukhtar Mai has done far more than just ‘trying’ to do welfare.
Even if we ignore the initial question asking Mukhtar Mai why she feels that the court decided against her appeal, your questions to Mukhtara Mai were not only harsh but illogical, poorly-framed and reflected the lack of insight from your end. Instead of letting Mai complete her answers, you cross-questioned her on her brother’s case. The cross-questioning was futile owing to the fact that it showed you had no knowledge of the brother’s case. Allow me to enlighten you: Mai’s brother Shakoor was sodomised by three men of the Mastoi clan. This was proved in court; the court sentenced those three men.
Moreover, when Mukhtar Mai asked why the court dragged her case if they had to uphold the same decision, you replied with ‘Writ to apnay ki thi’.’ (You are the one that registered an appeal).
Mai dared to stand up for herself and her family despite hailing from a rural background where influential tribesmen literally own the life and wealth of those they consider inferior to them. She spoke up in a society where reporting a rape case is an ordeal in itself and blaming the victim reinforces the culture of silence and shame.
By this time Mai, who had earlier stated her disappointment and hopelessness in the judicial system, had left the room. This is no ordinary woman, Mr. Lucman. She was gang raped on the orders of a jirga (illegal and banned), paraded naked around the entire village and then made to wait for nine long years – only to be turned down. From battling with influential tribesmen, rowdy politicians and jurisdiction dilemmas to constant death threats, this woman has suffered a lot, to say the least. Ignoring the entire ordeal, you not only chose to make ill-informed remarks but also did nothing to cross-question your guests, namely Hafeezullah Niazi and Mian Ghaffar. Your guest on the show accused the courts of being biased, taking dictations from unknown sources and also declared the case fictitious. If you have forgotten, let me remind you that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared one of the six men guilty of raping Mai. For someone to declare the rape fictitious, it falls under contempt of court. Instead of cross-questioning the guest in question, you concluded with remarks such as ‘tou Musharraf theek kehta tha” “so was Musharraf right?” Were you actually referring to General Musharraf’s obnoxious remark which was something to the effect of: women should not wash their dirty linen in public and that country’s image should not be tarnished by giving a gang rape victim too much attention?
Moreover you had the audacity to ask Mai if she felt any compassion for the men who were charged with rape? I find that deplorable and shoddy journalism. Do you expect her to sympathise with the men she accused of raping her?
The entire discussion on the show was a vicious attack not only at Mai, a rape survivor, but women's rights activists as well. Accusing activists of pocketing money (without substantial evidence, might I add) and cashing in on rape, reflects your views on rape victims.
It is people like you and attitudes such as yours that feed the vicious cycle of prejudice against rape victims, making the fight for justice harder. It is appalling that you would allow your guests to hurl allegations on Mai, call her rape fictitious without any substantial evidence and in the presence of a Supreme Court judgment.
It was appalling to witness you cross-question Mai, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of women who have suffered at the hands of these illegal jirgas. Not once in your programme did you mention the innumerous decisions made by these notorious jirgas, from burying women alive to feeding them to the dogs. Your attitude in the program and your approach to the case is an insult to the plight of the 2,903 women who were raped in 2010 alone and may never get justice.
For all of this you must apologise. I demand you read up on Mai’s case and issue a public apology not only to Mai but to the Pakistani men and women who have been left dejected but will continue the fight against rape and abuse.
Sana SaleemGawaahi.com and blogs at Global Voices, Asian Correspondent, The Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and tweets at twitter.com/sanasaleem.
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