By Nicholas Kristof
I’ve often written about Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman who used compensation money from a gang-rape to start schools and a women’s shelter. She’s one of my heroes, and lately there are some signs of funny business concerning the legal case against her attackers. Mukhtar has deeply offended the local feudal elites by championing the poor and pointing out the degree to which corruption protects the elites when they rape or abuse poor women. It’s no secret that some of those feudal families would like to see Mukhtar put in her place, even killed, and I hope the latest burst of activity doesn’t reflect that. Mukhtar’s aide, Samson Salamat, send around this note earlier today, and then Mukhtar just sent another note saying she’s deeply concerned. Here’s Samson’s note.
Mukhtar Mai’s case has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 at the Supreme Court of Pakistan at Islamabad. She was just informed by the office of her council Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. On February 11th, 2009, Mukhtar Mai’s case was indefinitely adjourned for “date in office” (which means the Court reschedules the next hearing depending on the availability of the judges on the bench).
This is an astonishing move. Since 2005, Mukhtar Mai’s case was pending before the Supreme Court without any hearings being scheduled. And now, just after the Federal Minister for Defence Production Sardar Abdul Qayyum Jatoi pressured Mukhtar Mai to drop the charges against her perpetrators, this hearing is the third within a month.
This gives us reason to believe there continues to be political interference in her case. Therefore, we call upon all supporters of Mukhtar Mai to immediately use whatever influence they may bring to bear to take action on this matter. Please contact the highest levels of the Pakistani government and request their assurance that the judiciary will maintain their independence in the face of alleged political pressure…..
His Excellency, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan
FAX: +92-51-9203297 & +92-51-922 1422
His Excellency Mr. Yousuf Raza Gillani
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Mr. Rehman Malik
Advisor / Minister for Interior
Fax: +92-51- 9202624
Mr. Salman Tasseer
Governor of Punjab