A jirga had declared four women and two men Ghul (fornicators) and condemned them to death after they were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing together at a wedding party in Bando Baidar village of Peech Bela union council.
“We have detained eight people (from the women’s tribe). And they have given us a written guarantee that the women would not be harmed,” Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai told The Express Tribune.
Umerzai added that he had seen the video showing the women and the men dancing and singing together.
“Judging by the local tribal culture, it is objectionable,” he said but added that he would not condone if a tribal jirga has condemned them to death as was reported by The Express Tribune on Sunday.
“The women have violated their tribal norms by dancing and singing with Na-mehrams (those who one can marry in Islam). But the law does not allow nobody to condemn them to death,” he added.
The commissioner claimed that the women were safe at the homes of their parents in Seertaiy village. He also confirmed that the condemned men have fled their village.
The local police chief said that a police party, headed by a deputy superintendent police, has been sent to Seertaiy village to recover the girls who, The Express Tribune reported, were locked in a room and were being starved.
Abdul Majeed Afridi, the district police officer, also endorsed Umerzai’s claimed that “the women are safe in their parents’ homes”.
Interestingly, DPO Afridi went back on his earlier statement and said that it was a local cleric, not a jirga, who condemned the six to death. On Sunday, he confirmed to The Express Tribune that a jirga had condemned them to death.
Afridi appears to have good knowledge of local tribal customs. “If a woman is found talking to a Na-mehram, she is ‘punished’ while the man is ‘wounded’ for his crime,” he said. However, he would not say how the woman is ‘punished’ and the man ‘wounded’.
Rights campaigners have condemned the jirga’s decision. In their statements, Sahara Development Foundation, Human Development Organisation, Rural Development Project, Integrated Human Rights Network, Aurat Foundation and Aurat Association called upon the government to ensure that the six people are not harmed.
They also demanded that the administration shift the women to Darul Aman for their security. They called for a ban on the jirga system which, they believe, is the root cause of discrimination against women in society.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2012.