Islamabad: Close on the heels of a Supreme
Court ruling upholding acquittal of five of the six men
accused of raping Mukhtar Mai, Pakistan government on Friday said
it would provide security and legal aid to the victim, who has
emerged as the symbol of a movement for women`s rights.
Responding to a point of order in the National Assembly
or lower house of Parliament, Interior Minister Rehman Malik
said Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has given him directives to
provide security to Mai and look into the matter.
Earlier, senior PPP leader and former minister Sherry
Rehman raised a point of order and said Mai had been fighting
for justice from the past nine years and only one of the men
accused of raping her was given life imprisonment while the
rest were acquitted.
She called on the government to file a review petition
on behalf of Mai and provide her security as she had expressed
concerns about threats to her life following the acquittal of
the accused by the Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court`s
Senior PPP leader Farahnaz Ispahani, a close aide of
party chief and President Asif Ali Zardari, said in a message
posted on Twitter that Zardari had "requested the government
to look into" the Mai case.
In 2002, Mai was a seamstress in Meerwala, a small
village in Punjab province, when her 12-year-old brother was
falsely accused of having an affair with a woman from a
powerful clan. To avenge the woman`s honour, the village
council ordered her gang-rape.
In June 2002, a case was filed under an Islamic law and
the Anti-Terrorism Act against 14 suspects, including two
members of the village council.
In August the same year, a lower court in Punjab
awarded the death sentence to six of the accused, including
the two village council members, and acquitted the other eight
In March 2005, the Multan bench of the Lahore High
Court acted on an appeal filed by the accused and struck down
the lower court`s order.
It acquitted five of the six accused and converted the
death sentence give to Abdul Khaliq, one of the main accused,
to life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court then took suo motu notice of the
High Court`s verdict and began hearing the case.
Yesterday, it ordered that the accused who had been
acquitted should be immediately freed if they were not wanted
in any other cases.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Shakirullah Jan
upheld the life sentence given to Khaliq.
The verdict has been criticised by Mai, rights activists
and civil society groups.