According to news trickling down from the mountain district of Kohistan in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), four women and one man may have been killed after being captured on video dancing with non-mehram men at a wedding. As often happens from parts as distant as these, the reports are conflicting. But an informant, who first broke the news of a jirga verdict against the women and two men, ordering that they be punished, now says five women have in fact been killed by their own families. The district administration firmly denies this and says two of the women pictured in the footage are home with their husbands in Mansehra and Muzaffarabad and the other two are with their families in Kohistan. The district police chief says that the women are safe; four men have been booked and will be brought to justice. It is hard to know what to believe. For outsiders it is almost impossible to verify what sequence of events took place in the village of Palas, where all this is said to have occurred. Police also claim the video was circulated mischievously and that the person behind this act is being tracked down. This all has eventually forced the Supreme Court to step in with the local police chief ordered to present all the women under threat in court on June 6.
While all this is relevant, even more crucial than the details is the question of why such barbarity continues in our State. Why have officials not been able to place the women in a safe environment as suggested by NGOs? Why do jirga continue to mete out sentences that defy humanity and shock people the world over? We need to ascertain what the fate of those five unfortunate women has been. But even more crucially, we need to find some way to put an end to such incidents and prevent more from occurring. There have been far too many in the past few years. We are not becoming a more civilised race, but rather more backward. This is disturbing. The authorities in Kohistan district and KP must take stronger notice of what happened and ensure that the culprits are apprehended and punished. Also awareness needs to be spread on such issues to prevent further such incidents.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2012.