URGENT APPEAL from Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization

Mukhtar Mai and her colleagues face intense harassment and false accusations of stolen electricity

Summary: On June 11, 2009, representatives from Multan Electric Power Company (MEPCO) stormed the headquarters offices of Mukhtar Mai Womenís Welfare Organization (MMWWO) in Meerwala, Tehsil Jatoi district Muzafargarh and accused the organization of stealing electricity. All electrical connections to the organization have been disconnected without any notice and cases were registered at Jatoi Police Station against Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Womenís Resource Centre and the Shelter Home.

This is a completely false accusation. MMWWO has the requisite documentation showing that all the electric bills are paid in full and to date. The organization is currently surviving without electricity with temperatures in Meerwala ranging between 40 to 45 degrees Celsius (104Ė113 degrees Fahrenheit).

MMWWO believes that this harassment and security incident was conducted at the behest of the Federal Minister for Defence Production Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi.

Mukhtar Mai and MMWWO request your immediate intervention to get electricity restored to the organization, independently investigate the incident and remove Federal Minister Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi from his position within the government.

Please read the document below with details of the incident and information on how you can make your interventions. May I request you to please consider it highly urgent.

Thank you very much for your attention and support.
Yours sincerely,
Samson Salamat
Program Manager

Details of the Incident:
A team of at least eight members led by Mr. Mehar Masood, Line Superintendent at MEPCO executed this operation. The team breached the security check post and entered into the Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Resource Center and Shelter Home and cut off all the electricity connections. When they entered the Shelter Home (male entry is restricted in the womenís shelter home), Mr. Mehar said they are from MEPCO and do not need permission from anyone because they have been ordered by Minister Jatoi and his senior Rana Ayub to conduct this operation. The men in the team went one by one in the rooms of female shelter residents, breaching all privacy and security protocols of the organization.

It was clearly a well planned operation and those involved knew that the management of MMWWO (President, Managing Director and Program Manager) was away from Meerwala for the hearing of Mukhtar Maiís case at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Upon the intervention of MMWWO staff, the MEPCO team left the organizationís property. However, on their way out, they cut off the main electric supply line of the whole area depriving hundreds of families of electricity. MEPCO registered cases at the Jatoi police station against Mukhtar Mai Girls Model School, Shelter Home and Resource Centre including the staff of the organization under section 39-A electricity Act and 39/186-A electricity act.

The incident was immediately reported in the print and electronic media against Mukhtar Mai and the organization as it appeared MEPCO had a journalist with them during the raid.

MMWWO has registered two complaints against the incident but no action has been taken till this report. First application was submitted to the office of District Police Office on June 12, 2009, while the other at Jatoi police station on June 15, 2009.

A police post has been designated by the government for the security Mukhtar Mai and her associates. However, during this raid the police did not take any action and allowed the MEPCO team to enter onto the organizationís property and buildings. Because of this, the organization is gravely concerned about the security of Mukhtar Mai herself, MMWWO staff and others in Meerwala.

It is clear to MMWWO that this is further harassment at the behest of Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, Federal Minister for Defence Production and his associates, who have been intimidating Mukhtar Mai and her colleagues in the past through different ways. A complete chronology of events and further harassment is detailed at the end of this document.

Action Requested:
You are humbly requested to please respond to our appeal and send written interventions to the authorities in Pakistan urging them to:
• Order MEPCO to immediately restore all electric power to MMWWO. An independent investigation of the accusations of MMWWO stealing electric power should be conducted, taking into account the clear documentation provided by MMWWO that all bills have been paid in full and up to date.
• Remove Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi from his office as Minister for Defence Production for his continuous involvement in intimidating Mukhtar Mai and her colleagues and political interference in her case before the Supreme Court.
• The police must register cases against the Rana Ayub (Xian) and Mr. Maher Masood (Line Superintendent) and their accomplices for harassing MMWWO staff and the women in the shelter home.
• A high level inquiry should be conducted by the Ministry of Interior to assess the security lapses in Meerwala and develop an improved security system and plan for the safety and security of the Mukhtar Mai, her family and colleagues because the threat has increased significantly. The police officials should be directed to ensure that the security system is being implemented.

Please send your written interventions to the following:

His Excellency
Mr. Asif Ali Zardari
President of Pakistan
President's Avenue
Phone: +92-51-9206069, +92-51-9222666
FAX: +92-51-9203297 & +92-51-922 1422

Mr. Rehman Malik
Advisor / Minister for Interior
R Block, Pak Secretariat
Islamabad (Pakistan)
Email Address: ministry.interior@gmail.com, interior.complaintcell@gmail.com
Tele : +92-51-9212026
Fax: +92-51- 9202624

Mr. Raja Pervez Ashraf
Minister for Water and Power
A Block, Pak Sectt. Islamabad.
Tel: 92-51-9212442
Fax: 92-51-9224825
Email: fminister@mowp.gov.pk

Background information on Mukhtar Mai and previous harassment incidents:
In 2002, Mukhtar Mai of Meerwala village, Tehsil Jatoi, District Muzafargarh in the South Punjab Region of Pakistan was gang-raped on the order of a council of elders (panchayat) as punishment for her 12-year-old brotherís alleged affair with a woman of a higher clan Mastoi.

The accused were apprehended due to public pressure from the local civil society organizations and the international community. Mukhtar Maiís case was tried in the local Anti-Terrorist Court against thirteen defendants who were involved in pronouncing the verdict of the panchayat or gang raped Mukhtar. The Anti-Terrorist Court gave death sentences to six accused while seven others were released.

In March 2005, the Lahore High Court released six on appeal and the death sentence of one of the accused was changed into life imprisonment. However, due to public pressure, the accused were placed under house arrest by the authorities under Provision of the Maintenance of Public Order.

After the High Courtís verdict, the Supreme Courtís Chief Justice Mr. Mohammed Ifftikhar Chaudhary took a Suo Moto action and suspended the decision of the lower court. Mukhtar Maiís appeal was accepted by the Supreme Court and the Court ordered the re-arrest of all the accused. Thirteen defendants are currently in jail, including the leader of the Mastoi tribe Mr. Faiz Mastoi, who headed the panchayat. Mukhtar Maiís case is still pending in the Supreme Court.

Chronology - Jatoiís opposition to Mukhtar:
• In 2002, when Mukhtar was brutally gang raped on the orders of the influential local council, the powerful Jatoi family influenced the police authorities to technically weaken the case and favor the accused.
• Federal Minister Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi visited Meerwala in 2006 when he was district Nazim and asked Mukhtar to compromise with the accused.
•In December 2008 Federal Minister Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi attempted to pressure Mukhtar Mai to drop the charges against the thirteen accused of the Mastoi tribe who were involved either in the verdict against Mukhtar or gang raped her. The Minister said that if she does not comply, he and his associates will not let the Supreme Courtís decision go in favour of Mukhtar.
• An organized media trial began against Mukhtar. On February 13, 2009 Minister Jatoiís associate and co-parliamentarian Mr. Jamshaid Dasti (MNA Constituency NA 178, Muzafargarh) held a Press Conference saying that Mukhtar Maiís case against the perpetrators is a totally ďfraudĒ and the perpetrators are innocent. The struggle of Mukhtar Mai for the violence against women was termed as a ďwestern agendaĒ.