Sacramento to Raise Funds for Mukhtar Mai’s School
By Ras H. Siddiqui


Jack Morris meets Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan

The California Credit Union League (Serving Credit Unions in California and Nevada) and a group of dedicated local citizens in the greater Sacramento, California area led by Loomis Lions Club’s Jack Morris, have invited Mukhtar Mai (also known as Mukhtaran Bibi) from Pakistan to attend a fundraiser and other programs next month, to be held between December 8 and 11.
The main event is to be held at the local Arden Hilton on December 11, 2007 in Sacramento which will focus on raising funds for a girls High School in Mukhtar’s town of Meerwala in the Seraiki-speaking belt of Southern Punjab in Pakistan.


Cover of Mukhtar Mai’s book

Mukhtar Mai is currently looking to expand her vision of educating young girls in her village and for providing shelter for abused women in Meerwala. Herself a victim of abuse, she has turned her tragic circumstances into a worthy cause that many Americans and Pakistanis share.
For those who are not familiar with the Mukhtar Mai story, she became an “Honor victim” via a rape in the year 2002 carried out by a group ironically to preserve the honor of their tribe which had taken umbrage and “felt” violated by Mukhtar’s brother Shakoor’s alleged relationship with a woman from amongst them. They sought revenge which locals perceived as justice, and in the process, Mukhtar was violated by a number of people. In other words, to preserve their “honor” she was dishonored. The village cleric Imam Abdul Razzaq, condemned the rape during his Friday sermon at the local Muslim Mosque after it took place. He also brought in a journalist, Mureed Abbas, to meet Mukhtaran's father, and they persuaded the family to file formal charges against the rapists, a very bold move under the circumstances.
This reporter is both ashamed and embarrassed while writing the words above as an American of Pakistani origin. But an afternoon meeting with Jack Morris at his Loomis home certainly convinced me of the need to help this brave woman. Jack is a retired California Government employee who, along with his wife Freda, devotes time to local Lions Club activities and helps others in need. Understanding my point of view, that I did not wish to aid in the airing of the negatives present in Pakistan (to make the country and our community here look bad), my initial reluctance was overcome by Jack’s commitment to help. “It’s about the future Ras,” said Jack. He stressed that this effort was not about dwelling on what had already happened but what was possible; to change the future of some girls and women in Southern Punjab.
Jack Morris, who initially embarked on a quest to help Mother Teresa in Calcutta just prior to her death, ended up hearing about and helping Mukhtar Mai in Meerwala instead. He compares her to Rosa Parks, the beginning of a one-person crusade for equality and justice. And like a true adventurer, he actually went to Meerwala to meet the “Lady Mukhtar” a couple of years ago. “To meet one of the great heroes of human kind and to witness for myself what she was experiencing with the people in her own village and the difficulties she was having. I wanted to see how she was actually using her donations before I committed to devoting my time and energy,” said Mr. Morris.

Freda and Jack Morris
Girl students in Meerwala, Pakistan

During his trip to Pakistan , he was helped by Lions Club members there who enabled him to go to remote areas in the country. Since that trip Jack and Freda have hosted a Pakistani (a Lion) and his wife at their residence here in Loomis. He shared his impressions of Pakistanis with me and he had quite a few positive things to say. “They hosted me for ten days in Karachi and Multan and I was not allowed to lift a finger or spend one dollar all the time in the country,” he said. “I found them to be moderate, helpful, affectionate, considerate, and with other solid qualities,” he added. “Quite easily, I can be talked into returning one day.”
On arranging Mukhtar’s visit and planning the December 11 event, Jack addressed an assembled Credit Union group last year and by mutual agreement the extension of Mukhtar’s already scheduled visit to Arizona (to add Sacramento) came about.
“We simply tied the two dates into one visit for her,” he said. On his expectations from the fundraiser he added, “I hope that we are able to contribute to the building of Mukhtar’s high school and to have some scholarships to help pay for some students as they move up through the school years in preparation for college. I pray that the long range benefits will be in preparing the women of Punjab to be leaders in the future of Pakistan .”
This writer is happy to add that the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Sacramento is also a sponsor of this event and is now assisting the California Credit Union League in its efforts. Tickets for the event can be purchased from the following website: http://www.sacvalleychapter.org/ after filling out the necessary details and mailing in a check. Tickets which include a pre-dinner reception and dinner are $100, while for the dinner banquet alone with Mukhtar Mai they are $50. Pakistani-Americans are encouraged to attend this event in large numbers and purchase their tickets early. They should contact their local Pakistani-American associations or this writer for details. Arrangements have been made for serving a halal chicken chargha “Lahori” as one of the menu choices during the evening fundraising banquet.
In conclusion, Mukhtar Mai will be starting her visit to Sacramento on Saturday, December 8. She may be present at a fundraiser in the Bay area sometime during the weekend (not yet final). She also has a book signing engagement at a local Borders Bookstore (Fair Oaks Blvd. , near Mehran Restaurant (hint)) on Monday December 10 in the evening. She is also scheduled to visit a local high school earlier that day. All we need now is to make her visit a memorable one and raise some money for the disadvantaged kids in a remote area of Pakistan . And let us remember that an investment into the betterment of the lives of poor Pakistanis now is an investment into a bright future for American-Pakistani friendship.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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