Confusion prevailed on Tuesday over the fate of five women allegedly slaughtered following a jirga decree in Kohistan district.
While Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain denied that the women have been killed, witnesses from the rival tribe insisted otherwise, saying they were prepared to identify graves of the slain women.
‘Alive, and in safe hands’
Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, Hussain said that a fact-finding mission discovered that all women involved in the jirga decree were ‘alive and in safe hands’.
He said that a day ago, the mission comprising Hazara commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai, DIG Dr Mohammad Naeem, Kohistan DCO Aqaal Badshah and DPO Abdul Majid Afridi visited the area and met the women and their parents.
“The women are alive and according to local elders and families of the said women, no one can kill them on the basis of a suspicious video,” the minister said.
The two brothers of Mohammad Afzal – who had filmed the women, made the video public and subsequently broke the news of the jirga decree and the women’s killing – were also arrested, Hussain said.
“Along with the mission members, clerics and elders of the area, we also searched for new graves but found nothing in support of Mohammad Afzal’s claim about the killing of the five women,” he added.
Asked if the women will be produced before the Supreme Court on June 6, as directed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Hussain said that due to the geographic distance and cultural barriers, it would be difficult but they would try to take the women to the apex court. The minister, however, did not appear entirely convinced either.
He said that anyone who has information about the killing of the women, with solid evidence, should share it with the administration.
“Investigation is still continuing and if I get any kind of information about their killing, I will inform the media,” he said.
Tortured in custody
Afzal, however, said his brothers were being tortured in detention by the police to force them to change their statements on the women being killed.
His brothers, 20-year-old Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar, 21, were arrested two days ago after being booked for filming four women of the Azad Khel tribe and making the video public.
The men, according to police sources, confessed to filming the women with their consent. They also told the police that the women were slaughtered on the jirga’s decree and a man, Lajalil Khan of the Chootaykhel tribe, was the eyewitness.
The two men were also condemned to death by the jirga but managed to flee initially.
Meanwhile, elders of Salikhel tribe, to which the men belong, have announced to identify the graves of the slain women.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2012.
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