[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June 2005, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Gang rape victim's police problems
The BBC Urdu Service's Nadeem Saeed spends a day in the Pakistani village of Meerwala with Mukhtar Mai, the victim of a notorious gang rape three years ago.

Mukhtar Mai with her mother
Mukhtar Mai with her mother - 'merely seeking justice'

Ms Mai is now preparing to contest the acquittal of five men convicted of raping her, allegedly on the orders of a village council.

At the same time she says the government has confiscated her passport in a row about whether the publicity over her rape is giving Pakistan a bad name overseas.

Mukhtar Mai was herself at the door to receive us. But before she could even greet us, we found ourselves surrounded by a band of policemen.

After our identification papers were checked, we were allowed to go inside.

'Policewomen live here'

Apart from Ms Mai, there were two other women in the house who came swiftly towards us and started asking questions about our visit.

"They are policewomen and they live here now," Ms Mai said resignedly. "They are always in plainclothes so that visitors think they are part of the family."

When the interview started, the two policewoman also sat down with us.

Mukhtar Mai with friend
Ms Mai and friend - 'I find this life tough'

"Pakistan doesn't belong to President Musharraf. I as an ordinary Pakistani am as conscious of its image," Ms Mai said when asked to explain why she thought she had been stopped from travelling abroad.

After a while, the two policewomen left the room.

"They have gone to tell the authorities that I am giving an interview," Ms Mai smiled.

Clearly, that was exactly what they did. After a while, several policemen barged in. They all looked worried.

They told us that Ms Mai's statements were bringing a bad name to the country and that "they could lose their jobs" if they let the interview go ahead.

Seeing that no one was convinced, they finally left us alone.

Many men have written to me asking me to marry but most of them were probably under the impression that I was awash with dollars
Mukhtar Mai

The interview was interrupted several times, by phone calls from journalists and NGO leaders. Ms Mai said it was a typical day.

A short while later, Ms Mai's brother Shakoor came running. This was the boy whose alleged sexual misdemeanour had led to his sister's gang rape.

He told us that a "big police officer" was headed our way. By the time he had finished speaking, the officer was already in the house.

We complained to him about the constant harassment by the police.

"Guests of the prime minister and the president go through the same security protocol, you know," he said.

The officer said there was a threat from the families of the accused who were still behind bars. Hence the strict security.

"Mukhtar Mai is no ordinary person," he informed us. "She is an international figure now."

The officer - whom we later learnt was the divisional head of an intelligence agency - said he wanted to speak to Ms Mai in private.

They went into the room next door but he was talking so loudly we could hear him. He was asking for Ms Mai's old passport.

It was a useless document but he still took it and went away.

Ms Mai told us that she spends most of her day giving interviews, answering telephones or queries from the police or intelligence agents.

'Cannot meet locals easily'

"I was once able to find time to teach the Koran to children for an hour every day. I would even find time for stitching clothes or to meet people who would come to me for advice.

"But all that is gone since my security was increased. I cannot even meet the locals easily."

Mukhtar Mai with niece
'I feel the government is very suspicious of me'

She refused to talk about what happened recently in Islamabad when she withdrew her application for a visa to the United States or who had taken her passport.

"But I feel the government is very suspicious of me," she said.

"I wonder why? Maybe they feel had I gone to the US, I would have talked against Pakistan.

"Little do they know that had anyone dared say a word against my country I would have shut that person up there and then."

Ms Mai was strongly critical of all those - especially women - who were advocating that she should keep a low profile.

"I wonder if they would feel the same if what happened to me happened to them?"

She said she was merely seeking justice so that others are discouraged from transgressing against women.

"I want nothing more than to go back to the simple life I had before the incident. I find this life very tough."

Ms Mai says she would like to get married but doesn't know when or how it will happen.

"Many men have written to me asking me to marry but most of them were probably under the impression that I was awash with dollars.

"I tell everyone that all my money is for my school and that my husband would have to live with me in Meerwala.

"Once they hear that, they lose interest."


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific