In the wake of searing criticism from right groups, the police have booked two of the eight jirga members who condemned four women and two men to death for “disrespecting gender segregation customs” in a remote village of Kohistan district, police sources said.
Head of the jirga Molvi Javed, a prayer leader of a Mansehra-based seminary, and former union nazim Peech Bela Molvi Noorul Haq, were booked under section 107 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on Tuesday.
The jirga had declared four women and two men ‘Ghul’ (fornicators) after they were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing together at a wedding party in Bando Baidar village of Peech Bela union council.
The two members of the jirga who were booked addressed a press conference at the Manshera Press Club on Tuesday denying that they had ever issued any decree of killing the people.
They claimed that the video was fake and doctored by rival tribes in a bid to hatch a conspiracy to pit the two tribes against each other.
They pointed out that it was against the “Shariah” to condemn somebody on the basis of some “engineered footage”. The two jirga members, who also denied being part of the jirga, brushed aside reports that they had ever furnished surety bonds to the police administration.
As conflicting statements on the case continued to emerge on Tuesday, neither the women nor the men could be presented before the press to confirm whether they were safe or not.
District Police Officer (DPO) Abdul Majeed Afridi, who claimed to have dispatched a police party to recover the detained women on Monday, gave a new statement on Tuesday. He said that all four women were safe in their homes and peace prevailed in Seertaiy village.
On the other hand, Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai said that the administration had met all the eight jirga members, who belonged to the women’s Azad Khel tribe, and they had agreed in principle to not cause any harm to the women.
According to DPO Afridi, the situation was under control. He said one of the four women was in Muzaffarabad with her in-laws, the second one was at Manshera with her in-laws too and the other two women were with their families at home in Seertaiy. “They all are safe and face no life threats,” he said.
However, Muhammad Afzal – the elder brother of Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar who were allegedly seen in the footage and condemned to death by the jirga – claimed that the girls were still locked in a room.
He demanded if the women had been rescued, they should be brought before the press and even the courts to record their statements.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2012.