Date Issued: June 19, 2009
In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Instead of suffering in silence, Ms. Mai fought back and testified in a rape case against her attackers and is now a leading Pakistani women’s rights activist.
For her activism, she has faced constant harassment, including from government officials, who have strongly discouraged her from proceeding with her case. In the latest incident, on June 11, 2009, a power company raided her human rights organization, falsely accusing it of stealing electricity. The company proceeded to disconnect all of the electricity, also affecting hundreds of families in the surrounding area. According to witnesses to the raid, power company officials claimed that a member of the Pakistani government ordered the raid.
This raid is only the most recent incident of harassment against Ms. Mai and has significantly hindered her organization’s ability to carry out its important human rights work. Demand that government officials immediately cease these harassing tactics.
Dear President Zardari:
I write to express my grave concern about Mukhtar Mai, a women’s human rights defender who has been the victim of repeated harassment for her work promoting women’s rights and education. In the most recent incident, on June 11, 2009, the Multan Electric Power Company raided the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization (MMWWO) and disconnected all electricity to the grounds, falsely accusing them of stealing electricity despite records proving they have paid all bills in full. MMWWO and hundreds of families in the surrounding area are still without power. According to MMWWO employees who were witnesses, the power company officials claimed that the raid was ordered by Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, the Federal Minister for Defense Production.
I urge you to immediately investigate this allegation. Government officials should not be ordering baseless raids on human rights organizations. Further, if the allegations are true, I urge that you instruct government officials to cease harassing Ms. Mai and her colleagues. This would only be the latest in a series of harassing incidents carried out by government officials to dissuade Ms. Mai from seeking accountability for past crimes and carrying out her important human rights work.
In 2002, Mukhtar Mai was gang-raped on orders of a traditional village council as punishment for acts allegedly committed by her younger brother. Instead of suffering in silence, Ms. Mai testified in legal proceedings against her attackers. The case is now before the Supreme Court after a lower court granted the convicted men’s appeal. Hearings for the Supreme Court case have repeatedly been delayed, but her attackers remain imprisoned and her case is pending.
I understand that throughout the court proceedings, Ms. Mai has faced harassment by government officials, most notably by Minister Jatoi. In 2006, he visited Ms. Mai to ask her to reach a compromise with her attackers. In 2008, he again pressured Ms. Mai to drop the charges against her attackers, allegedly insisting that if she proceeded with the case, he would ensure a verdict in favor of her attackers. Most recently, in February 2009, Minister Jatoi’s associates engaged in a media campaign against Ms. Mai, stating that her attackers are innocent and that the entire case is a “fraud” and a “western agenda.”
In this latest incident, both the power company and MMWWO have filed police reports. MMWWO has also appealed to other public officials, including the Minister for Water and Power and the Minister for Human Rights. To date, no government action has been taken. I urge you to ensure a prompt and independent investigation into these allegations that will resolve this dispute. The raid has significantly hindered the ability of Ms. Mai’s organization to carry out its important work and electricity to their premises should be immediately restored.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. I will continue to closely follow this case.