The Mukhtaran Mai Decision
Finally, the Supreme Court had to step in to purge us from the embarrassing failure of state and society in the Mai case. The system failed at the societal level when none stepped in to stop the debasement of a woman; the police failed to prevent the panchayat members from ordering the commission of a crime; after the crime was perpetuated, the system failed to make arrests; the judicial system came under the influence of the feudal interests, when it did not operate. It was only left for the Supreme Court to come to Mai’s help. It is not the role of the Supreme Court to correct systemic failure.
The episode drew international comment and painted Pakistan in a poor light. The ripples from this horrendous episode drew a sympathetic comment from Ms. Rice, the US Secretary of State; the tragedy clouded President Musharaff’s visit to Australia ,when he was questioned why Mai was prohibited from leaving the country? The President was concerned that the global media would muddy the good name of Pakistani, if Mai was to travel abroad.
The case raises many other questions. The rape pollutes peoples mind about Pakistan; it is viewed as a country, where rights and the rule of law are significant by their relative absence rather than implementation. The dreadful event is symptomatic of social and governance ailments from which individual Pakistani women suffer.
It is a truism that the freedoms of any society can be gauged by the treatment meted out to its women. I am afraid that we have not been fair to the female nurturers of our nation. How unfortunate. Yet men are not always to blame, look around your family’s dinner table tonight; many mothers will put the choicest piece of food on their son’s plate and not her daughter’s; right from her childhood she has been conditioned to perceive herself as a second class citizen.
The incident also reflects sadly on our poor policing; the rural police at the thana level is the dark side of our feudal system. Was there no one in the whole village to say stop, including any prayer leader? Ironically, it was the standard – setting village panchayat, composed of respected elders, who gave the despicable rape order. What type of a human being is being produced by our society?
The subordinate judiciary failed, when it faltered to call a spade a spade. It was only after a lot of clamour was raised that the state authorities stepped in; we are in a societal nightmare. Force and coercion, which has been a hall mark of our state apparatus has now been firmly cultivated in the citizen’s mind. Insulting women and berating anyone weak or handicapped is considered macho; violence begets violence; this attitude will not help in the creation of a moderate Pakistan.
Lastly, many in the NGO community failed to live up to expectations. It is irresponsible to create hype, when such an event occurs and then to walk away not caring what happened to the victim.