Can Mukhtaran’s case change tribal system in Pakistan?

Time and again we hear the extreme stories of child abuses, gang rapes, detention of intellectuals, torture of journalists, killing of religious leaders and so on. If, surprisingly, any incident gets on surface and the facts become the headlines in the international media, the bosses in the bureaucracy, ministers and even head of state, hastily, turn out to be the claimants of the victim. The mouthpieces in the government actively involve in countering the situation by repeated charters of providing justice to the people and supremacy of law.

When courageous Mukhtaran Mai, the raped victim, managed to knock the doors of Lahore High Court and begged for justice, she received no justice instead the offenders (the rapists) awarded acquittal from the Court. There was no reaction and help from any mouthpieces in the government. As she approached human rights groups in the country and subsequently abroad everyone in the government reacted promptly. Pakistani authorities ban on Mukhtaran Mai to travel overseas. The Interior Minister of Pakistan justified the action of putting Mukhtaran on exit control list (ECL) as measures of the government to protect her from traveling abroad. What a joke… what else could happen to her after what has been done to her by the people of her own town?

The horrendous incident of Mukhtaran Mai is another example of human rights abuses in a country which has the inherited feudal and tribal systems. A country, where leaders of the tribes and landlords are the members of the provincial and federal parliaments, where landlords enjoy ministries and share powers of the State with military chiefs and bureaucrats.

These landlords (Choudhries and Punchayat leaders) are enjoying ministries and premierships in the present government of General Musharraf as well. Still, President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf claims to build Pakistan an enlightened and moderate Islamic State. Mukhtaran Mai’s case should be enough to acknowledge the ground realities, the status of civil rights and the caliber of those who are enjoying the power on the name of making Pakistan a progressive Islamic State.

Condemning NGOs campaign in support of Mukhtaran Mai, the State Minister for Health Shahnaz Sheikh said ‘why the foreign countries are interfering in this case… they have no right to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan’. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said, ‘we are not fearful of any black or white Britons. We take our decisions on our own. US have not exerted any pressure on Pakistan to remove Mai name from ECL’.

Similarly, the Treasury member Rashid Akbar Nawani told the media that Mukhtaran Mai had accumulated money what she desired and now NGOs are exploiting this case. He said that NGOs hurl abuses the government. They want that nation’s mothers and sisters come on the roads and collect donations for this purpose… This foreign lobby is causing harm to our society…. The court has pronounced verdict and it should be respected. No evidence is there in the support of this case, he remarked….

When the things went worst against the government and Mukhtaran’s story became the part of almost every news media in the world. The government machinery took a u-turn. Mukhtaran has been immediately removed from the exit control list –” now no fear to interior minister for Mukhtaran’s safety abroad. The top Courts, bureaucracy and even the politician came on the road offering all sorts of support and shouting for justice to her. Now, Mukhtaran is being provided a high-class security. Security forces are guarding her poor house and police mobiles are protecting her commute.

The impartiality of Courts of Justice and supremacy of law has always been the issue in Pakistan. The Courts of Justice have always been under the influence of government machinery. With change of government the Judges of high and supreme courts are replaced.

Taking notice of reaction internationally, Supreme Court of Pakistan has decided to reopen the case. The re-arrest warrants of the acquitted convicts have been issued on the orders of the Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. From Ministers to the President everyone is now found showing their sincerity to provide justice to Mukhtaran. Can they bring back her respect and dignity in the society? No doubt there have been numerous cases of rape occurred in every society –” may be more in western countries than in Pakistan. But, bear in mind that Mukharan Mai’s case is not an incident of a rape by any individual culprit who attacked her taking the advantage of time and situation. It has been an extreme image of the wicked and uncivilized system in Pakistan especially in rural areas which is in majority. Mukhtaran was rapped on the order of the village council (punchayat) consist of landlords of the village. In most of the cases these councils share the power with government administration. In most cases the members of these councils are the councilors of present government’s local bodies system.

This is not the first time that a crime has been committed on the orders of village councilors or landlords, there are several cases on record when the women of the village naked and marched on the streets of the village as a punishment ordered by the village council.

I have repeatedly said in my write-ups in response to President Musharraf’s provocative agenda of making Pakistan a moderate and enlightened state that turning nation into civilized society is a stepwise process. True democracy, supremacy of law, justice & liberty of civil rights and freedom of speech are the prime attributes of creating a civilized and progressive society. In the present system of Pakistan where there is a rule of tribal system in most parts of the country where there is supremacy of dictatorship, bureaucracy and feudalism; can anyone think about present government’s claims something else than the routine political statements to impress the world that the rulers in Pakistan are very modern now and they want to make Pakistan an enlightened state.

How can a body be claimed clean while it carries pieces of dirt on its surface? If Musharraf is really serious about what he says then the question arises; Can he makes his dreams true by sharing power of state with the same feudal (Khans, Vaderays, Choudhrys) and corrupt bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the history of Pakistan shows that the rulers often come out with great ideas. Huge funds from state treasury are spent on organizing wonderful forums, conventions and foreign trips yet the nation has not seen any improvement in the life of a common person, economically and socially.