Multan: Mukhtaran Mai, a Pakistani victim of a village council-sanctioned gangrape, has expressed fears that she might be killed by the accused acquitted by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Mai was gangraped on the orders of a village council in 2002 as a punishment because her brother - who was just 12 years old at that time - was judged to have offended the honour of a powerful clan by allegedly having an affair with one of its women.
Mai was an illiterate villager at the time of the attack, but she defied taboos and shot to global fame by speaking out about her ordeal and taking her attackers to court.
Mai had accused 14 men of being involved in raping her, and in 2002, a court sentenced six of them to death while acquitting the others, citing a lack of evidence.
However, following an appeal, the Lahore High Court not only upheld the eight acquittals but also overturned five of the six convictions.
Mai appealed to Pakistan`s Supreme Court in 2005, but it acquitted five of the six accused in the Mukhtaran Mai gang rape case as it upheld the verdict of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday.
"I`m disappointed. Why was I made to wait for five years if this decision was to be given?" The Scotsman quoted a sobbing Mai, as saying from her village in the eastern province of Punjab shortly after the court announced the decision.
"The accused can kill me and my family when they return home," she added.
Mai, who now runs a school for girls in her village, which is funded with donations from the government and supporters at home and abroad, said that she would neither flee her village nor the country despite the claims that her life was in danger following yesterday`s court ruling, the report said.
"Life and death are in the hands of Allah ... I will not shut my school and other projects," she maintained.
Mai`s decision to defy centuries-old rural customs of repressing women by going public about her ordeal brought an international spotlight on the struggles of women in Pakistan, won her human rights awards and made her a role model for many women in Pakistan.