A saga of determination

Published : Jul 29, 2005 00:00 IST

JUNE 22, 2002: Mukhtar Mai (30) is gang-raped allegedly on the orders of the Meerwala village council in Punjab province as a punishment after her 12-year-old brother Shakoor was reportedly seen in the company of a woman belonging to the influential Mastoi clan. The police arrest Shakoor on charges of adultery.

(Mukhtar Mai's family claim that the charge against Shakoor was fabricated after men from the Mastoi clan sodomised him and her family threatened to report the matter to the police. Eventually, three men are tried for sodomy and sentenced to five years' imprisonment each. They are still in jail.)

The village council suggests that Shakoor marry the woman he was seen with and Mai, a divorcee, be married to a Mastoi man. The Mastois reportedly reject the deal, insisting that zina (adultery) must be settled with zina. Mukhtar Mai is called to the council to apologise for her brother's conduct. She appears and apologises but is dragged to a nearby hut and gang-raped allegedly by four men. The Mastois inform the police that the dispute has been settled and Shakoor is released.

June 28: During his weekly Friday sermon, the village imam (prayer leader) declares that a great sin has been committed and asks the villagers to report the matter to the police. The imam then narrates the incident to a reporter from a nearby town who publishes the story in the local press. The international media immediately picks it up and the Punjab government asks the police to take immediate action.

June 30: A case is registered with the police against 14 men. All are arrested and charged under various provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hadd) Ordinance. Read together, the provisions of the three laws allow the courts to extend the crime of rape to all those who were present on the occasion and, by an act of commission or omission, abetted the crime.

Four of the 14 accused are charged with raping Mukhtar Mai while the rest are booked for abetment. Their trial begins in an anti-terrorism court. The medical examination of Mai and chemical analysis of her clothes reveal at least two semen stains.

August 31: The trial court announces the verdict at a special midnight session, sentencing six men to death. Four of them are sentenced for rape while two are convicted for being part of the panchayat that decreed the rape. The remaining eight are released and freed subsequently.

September 2: The state and Mukhtar Mai file separate appeals in the Multan Bench of the Lahore High Court against the acquittal of the eight men. Mai says she is otherwise satisfied with the verdict.

September 3: Mukhtar Mai busies herself in setting up two schools in her village with the compensation money awarded to her. Her courage and efforts are acknowledged worldwide and generous donations are made for her school.

March 3, 2005: The Multan Bench reverses the trial court's judgment on the basis of "insufficient evidence" and "faulty investigations". The court acquits five of the six men while the death sentence of the sixth is commuted to life imprisonment. The court orders the release of the five acquitted. The acquittals trigger protests within and outside Pakistan, and civil and human rights groups seek the Pakistan government's intervention.

March 4-7: Mukhtar Mai writes to the government saying she fears for her life if those acquitted are released. Rights groups hold rallies in various Pakistani cities protesting against the acquittals.

March 8: Pakistan's highest Islamic court, the Sharia court, suspends the Lahore High Court's acquittal of the five men. The court rules that the High Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear appeals in cases tried under Islamic laws. The Sharia court decides to hear the case itself.

March 14: The Supreme Court - Pakistan's highest judicial forum - intervenes to set aside the ruling by the Sharia court. It says it will hear the final appeal in the case. It rules that the High Court verdict will stand till such time that the appeal in the Supreme Court is decided. It orders the release of the five acquitted.

March 15: Four of the five acquitted in Mukhtar Mai's case are released on the orders of the Supreme Court. The fifth is detained on other, unrelated charges but is released two days later.

March 17: Mukhtar Mai appeals to President Pervez Musharraf to order the re-arrest of the four men who were released, saying she fears for her life.

March 18: The five men are re-arrested along with eight others who had been found not guilty at the original trial in 2002. All of them are detained on an order from the government of the Punjab province under the maintenance of public order ordinance, a law that allows the authorities to detain anyone for a period of 90 days on the grounds that the person is a threat to public order.

March 26: Mukhtar Mai files an appeal in the Supreme Court against its acquittal of the five men sentenced to death.

June 11: Mukhtar Mai says she is being prevented from travelling abroad by the government. Officials say the security measures are in place for her own safety and that she can travel abroad once the courts have dealt with her case. It is reported that she has applied for an American visa after being invited by a United States-based women's rights non-governmental organisation to visit the country.

June 13: The 90-day detention period comes to an end but all the 14 men remain in jail as no one comes forward to furnish bail bonds for them.

June 14: The police take Mukhtar Mai, first to Lahore and then to Islamabad, for a meeting with the Prime Minister's Adviser on Women's Development, Nilofer Bakhtiar.

Officials confirm that her name has been included in the Exit Control List - an official list of people banned from travelling abroad. The travel ban on Mukhtar Mai is condemned, locally and internationally. Critics say the move is to stop her case generating bad publicity for Pakistan abroad.

June 15: Mukhtar Mai spends two hours at the U.S. consulate and withdraws her application for a visa. Her passport is taken from her as she emerges from the U.S. embassy. The same day, the government announces that her name has been removed from the Exit Control List. Mukhtar Mai says the removal is meaningless as her passport has been taken away and she cannot travel anyway.

June 18: The Supreme Court says it will start hearing Mukhtar Mai's appeal against the acquittals on June 27.

June 27: The Supreme Court orders the re-arrest of the released.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment