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For Pakistani Rape Victim, Battle Carries On

"I was very hurt," said Mai, who lives in a simple two-room house adjacent to the girls' school here. "I could understand why the Mastois would do it because they were uneducated and illiterate, but judges? It totally shattered my confidence."

She said even some of her relatives adopted an I-told-you-so attitude, saying she should have accepted financial offers -- conveyed through intermediaries -- from the Mastois to drop the case when she had the chance.

Mukhtar Mai, whose widely publicized case against her alleged rapists is at the Supreme Court level, runs two primary schools for girls in her village. (B. K. Bangash -- AP)

"One of the biggest courts in the country couldn't protect you," she quoted one of her uncles as saying. "Now what will you do?"

Fearing for her life, Mai said, she fled to Islamabad, where she took refuge with a nongovernmental organization until late last week, when Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had the men rearrested. The Supreme Court is considering whether to order a retrial in the case. Even if it does, there is no guarantee of the outcome.

"The government is playing to the public," said Khalida Parveen, a local human rights activist involved in the case. "As long as justice is delayed, these accused will find more and more space to maneuver, and the case will continue to drag on."

But Mai said she had not given up hope and had no regrets about her decision to pursue the case -- if not for herself, then at least for the sake of her village.

"If a girl is raped in my society, she commits suicide or she flees," Mai said. "If I had chosen either of those two options, the process of change that has begun in this remote area wouldn't have started."

Mai said she took particular satisfaction in the rapid growth of enrollment in the girls' school, which is approaching 200 students. Among them is the young daughter of one of the men convicted of raping her.

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