Islamabad: The family of Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai became power brokers in their local community due to her international recognition and increased donor-provided resources, says a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
The cable, sent in 2006 by US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker to Washington, said the community in Mukhtaran Mai`s home district of Mianwalli was being instigated by her family, the News International reported.
Mukhtaran Mai became a symbol of the country`s oppressed women after her gang rape on the orders of a village council in 2002.
An anti-terrorism court acquitted eight of the 14 accused in the case and awarded the death sentence to the remaining six. Of the six, five were later acquitted by the Lahore High Court. It also reduced the death sentence of the sixth accused to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court agreed with the decision of the Lahore High Court.
The secret diplomatic message referred to a report by six Pakistani NGOs that were also well known to the US embassy.
The NGOs said Mukhtaran Mai and her brother, Hazoor Bakhsh, became involved in local politics on behalf of the family and were accorded the same respect as traditional tribal elders.
While the civil society initially viewed Mukhtaran Mai`s involvement in local affairs as a source for change, they later became increasingly concerned that she and her family were simply abusing their power, the cable said.
Bakhsh had also convened a panchayat (village council) to review the case of a nine-year-old girl who was allegedly raped by three men.
According to activists, Mai urged her brother to deal with the case through a panchayat rather than the formal legal system, arguing that the courts would not properly deal with the rapists.
Bakhsh reportedly ordered that the 15-year-old sister of one of the rapists be handed over in marriage to the rape victim`s father as compensation. The father allegedly tortured the girl before she was rescued by her family.
The NGOs claimed that Bakhsh also issued an order acquitting five people of kidnapping and raping two sisters, after allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 60,000. He later ruled against the sisters and found them guilty of illicit sexual relations.
Mukhtaran Mai has denied her brother`s involvement in the panchayat, claiming that the allegations were "politically motivated".