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Mukhtar Mai: The History of a Rape Case

”Mukhtar Mai - history of a rape case,” BBC News, 28 June 2005.

Pakistan's Supreme Court has intervened in the case of Mukhtar Mai, a village woman gang raped three years ago in a case that has aroused international attention.

The case has had many twists and turns.

22 June, 2002: Mukhtar Mai, aged 30, is gang raped allegedly on the orders of a village council in the southern Punjab village of Meerwala in Pakistan.

It is reported that the influential local Mastoi tribe had convened the council (jirga) to seek punishment for Ms Mai's 12-year-old brother Shakoor.

The Mastois allege that Shakoor had been seen in the company of a Mastoi woman and that had brought shame to the Mastoi clan.

Ms Mai's family says the charge against Shakoor is fabricated after he was sodomised by men from the Mastoi clan and the Mai family had threatened to report the matter to the police.

Shakoor, meanwhile, is arrested by the police on charges of adultery.

(Three men are eventually tried for sodomising Shakoor and sentenced to five years imprisonment each.

They are still in jail.

)The village council suggests that Shakoor marry the girl 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 according to the eye-for-an-eye principle.

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.

28 June, 2002: 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 tells a reporter from a nearby town who publishes the story in the local press.

It is immediately picked up by the international media and the Punjab government asks the police to take immediate action.

30 June: A case is registered with the Dera Ghazi Khan (southern Punjab) police against 14 men.

All are arrested and charged under various provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (provisions 109/149) of 1868, the Anti-Terrorism Act (7c & 21-1) of 1997 and the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hadd) Ordinance (10-4 and 11) of 1979.

Pakistani law allows criminal cases to be tried under the Anglo-Saxon system (in place since colonial times) and Islamic laws simultaneously.

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 had, by an act of commission or omission, abetted the crime.

The maximum punishment for rape under these laws is death.

Four of the 14 accused are charged with raping Ms Mai while the rest are booked for abetment.

Their trial begins in an anti-terrorism court in Dera Ghazi Khan (southern Punjab).

The burden of proof in an anti-terrorism court is lower than in a civil court.

The medical examination of Ms Mai and chemical analysis of her clothes reveals at least two semen stains.

31 August, 2002: The trial court announces the verdict in a special midnight session, sentencing six men to death.

Four of these are sentenced for raping her while two are convicted for being a part of the panchayat that decreed the rape.

The remaining eight are released and subsequently freed.

3 September, 2002: The State and Mukhtar Mai file separate appeals in the Multan bench of the Lahore high court against the acquittal of the eight men set free.

Ms Mai says she is otherwise satisfied with the verdict.

3 September, 2002 to 3 March, 2005: Ms 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.

3 March, 2005: The Multan bench of the Lahore High Court reverses the trial court's judgment on the basis of "insufficient evidence" and "faulty investigations".

The court acquits five of the six while the death sentence of the sixth is commuted to life imprisonment.

The court orders the release of the five acquitted.

The acquittals cause an international outcry and human rights groups call upon the Pakistan government to intervene.

4 to 7 March, 2005: Ms Mai writes to the government saying she fears for her life if those acquitted are released.

Rights group hold rallies in various Pakistani cities protesting against the acquittals.

11 March, 2005: Pakistan's highest Islamic court, the Sharia court, suspends the Lahore High Court's acquittal of the five men.

The court rules that the Lahore 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.

14 March, 2005: The Supreme Court - Pakistan's highest judicial forum - intervenes to set aside the ruling by the Sharia court.

The Supreme Court says it will hear the final appeal in the case.

It rules that the Lahore High Court verdict will stand till such time that the appeal in the Supreme Court is decided.

The five acquitted are ordered to be released.

15 March, 2005: Four of the five acquitted in Ms 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.

17 March, 2005: Ms Mai appeals to President Musharraf to order the re-arrest of the four men released saying she fears for her life.

18 March, 2005: The five men released earlier are re-arrested along with the eight others who had been found not guilty at the original trial in 2002.

All are detained on an order from the government of Punjab province under the maintenance of public order ordinance - a law which allows the authorities to detain anyone for a period of 90 days on grounds that the person is a threat to public order.

March 26, 2005: Mukhtar Mai files an appeal in the Supreme court against the acquittal of five men sentenced to death by the Supreme court.

11 June, 2005: Ms Mai says she is being prevented from travelling abroad by the government> Officials say the security measures are in place for Ms Mai's own safety and that she can travel abroad once the courts have dealt with her case.

It is reported that she has applied for a US visa after being invited by a US-based women's rights NGO to visit the US.

13 June, 2005: The 90-day detention period comes to an end but all 14 men remain in jail as no one comes forward to furnish their bail bonds.

14 June, 2005: Ms Mai is taken by the police first to Lahore and then to Islamabad for a meeting with the prime minister's advisor on women 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 Ms Mai is widely condemned, locally and internationally.

Critics say the move is to stop Ms Mai's case generating bad publicity for Pakistan abroad.

15 June: Ms Mai spends two hours at the US consulate and withdraws her application for a US visa.

Her passport is taken from her as she emerges from the US embassy.

The same day, the government announces that her name has been removed from the Exit Control List.

Ms Mai says the removal is meaningless as her passport has been taken away and she cannot travel anyway.

18 June, 2005: The Supreme Court says it will start hearing Ms Mai's appeal against acquittals on 27 June.

28 June, 2005: The Supreme Court suspends the acquittals of the five men convicted.

It orders that they and eight others found not guilty at the original trial be held pending retrial.