Many Islamic women throughout the world, who, by the erosive power of incessant brainwashing, or, by sheer use of brutal coercion blatantly perpetrated by the religion, have submitted themselves to a life of repression, all under the name of sharia. Some have taken it another step forward and convinced themselves that the veil is their sole shield against the lechery of men-folk around them. This post is not about them. Some women, however few in number, have chosen to deal with it differently. Their voices, though feeble, symbolize Islamic women’s liberation, however oxymoronic the concept sounds even today. Mukhtaran bibi (Mai) happens to be one among them. I have nothing but unalloyed respect for this woman for her relentless fight against a judicial system having the competence of a trash can. This article is not about the hope or the strength she has instilled in women worldwide. I do not wish any feelings of respect and pride to poison my blood-boiling rage upon hearing the acquittal of 13 of the 14 men who pounced on bibi as the village council watched the punishment being meted out.
I have nothing much against the council as they are a bunch of ignorant idiots who believe that women need to be butchered to communicate ill-feelings amongst social factions. But, what about the shameful breakdown of the entire judicial system of the country? The anti-terrorist court (ATC) ruling that convicted 6 out of 14 men was reversed by the Lahore high-court on the basis of ‘insufficient’ evidence. It beats me what more evidence could one possibly scrounge up when there is a gang-rape under the supervision of the panchayat, followed by the victim walking naked in front of 300 people! The path to this farce in the name of a judgement was every bit as excruciating as the incident itself, as the Pakistani government tried everything in its power to fasten the lid on this case. Bibi was put on the exit control list (the assailants were not included in the list) by Parvez Musharraf, who feared that she might tarnish the global image of Pakistan. We still wonder which aspect of the country’s image or the lack of one he wished to safeguard. A nation where a political leader could dismiss this case as one of those money-making scandals or a cheap ploy to emigrate, cannot really hope to project an image of progression anyway. One rape victim rehabilitated for hundred such cases of swindling is still worth the effort of treating every such case with equal conviction.
The extremely protracted, unnecessary wait of 9 years wasn’t worth the wait. An ATC, the high-court, the supreme court and not to mention the parallel sharia law could do nothing….absolutely nothing about such a heinous act that happened right under their noses. This planted an amusing thought in my head that the village panchayat did what the formal judiciary took slightly less than a decade to do!
I couldn’t but feel helpless about the whole issue, it being the worst living feeling one could ever have. As defeatist as it may sound, it is in our power, only to help provide a forum for their voice and comfort for their life and continue waiting for such derelict judicial systems to come of age.