In a shocking instance of tribal (in)justice, a jirga in a remote village of Hazara division has condemned four women and two men to death for ‘staining the honour’ of their families.
They were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing together at a wedding ceremony in violation of the “tribal custom of gender segregation”.
The women, all of them married, have been called back from their in-laws and locked in a room in Seertaiy village, in Peech Bela union council of Kohistan district.
“A tribal jirga has declared them Ghul (fornicators). And they might be killed any time,” said Muhammad Afzal, elder brother of the two men condemned to death. The men have, however, managed to flee.
Afzal added that the women allegedly sang Mahiyas (folk songs) at a wedding ceremony and danced in the presence of Na-mehram (those who one can marry in Islam).
The wedding ceremony took place two months ago in Bando Baidar village, which is also in UC Peech Bela. Some unscrupulous guest shot the women and men singing and dancing with a mobile phone video camera, sources told The Express Tribune. The amateur video was later sent to the women’s kin.
The tribe to which the women belong was incensed by the video. They convened a jirga of tribal elders a month ago. The elders found the women and men guilty of violating tribal and Islamic norms by singing and dancing together.
“The jirga did not bother to hear the ‘accused’ and condemned them to death,” Afzal told The Express Tribune. The jirga has tasked 40 young men to kill the ‘fornicators’. The tribe has also raised a fund of Rs400,000 for litigation that may ensue.
According to the jirga’s verdict, the men have to be shot dead first.
The ‘accused’ women, two of them having children, are locked in a room in their parental village. “They are tied with ropes. They are being starved,” claimed Afzal.
The local police chief confirmed that the jirga has condemned the six people to death. “I’ve spoken to the tribal elders and I’ll utilise all resources available to stop these executions,” Abdul Majeed Afridi, the district police officer (DPO), told The Express Tribune. He has already sent a police party to Seertaiy village to recover the women.
Afzal voiced doubts about the authenticity of the video and accused his foes for forging it to humiliate his family. “Since our family is affluent and owns vast acres of forestland, orchards and agriculture farms in Bando Baidar village. They (our rivals) hatched a plot to deprive us of our property,” he claimed.
Afzal claimed that the forged video did not show his brothers and the women dancing together.
DPO Afridi, who claims to have seen the video, agreed with Afzal. He said that the women were seen singing Mahiyas and clapping their hands in a room. On the other hand, the clip showing the men has a different background.
Afzal works as a clerk at the office of Abdul Saboor Usmani Advocate, the lawyer who practices criminal law at the Abbottabad Registry of Peshawar High Court (PHC). Usmani called the jirga’s decision a blatant violation of human rights.
He added that the women were being tormented – both mentally and physically – without any crime. Afzal added that the jirga had no right to condemn somebody to death. “Still, if they believe my brothers have broken some law, let a court of law decide the matter,” he said.
Afzal, however, said that he had appealed to Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti during his recent visit to Battagram to provide him and his family security against his foes. He warned that otherwise local police and the provincial authorities would be responsible for any harm to him or his family.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.