ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly standing committee could not initiate a parliamentary probe into the alleged honour killing of five women ordered by a tribal jirga in Kohistan on Thursday.
The Standing Committee on Human Rights could not be briefed in detail by police or other concerned officials as most of the members were absent with the lower house session being conducted on the same day.
DIG Hazara Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan, however, briefed the committee on the progress made in the case so far. He informed that he will be leaving for Kohistan by Thursday evening to gather more information, which will be presented during the committee’s next meeting, scheduled next week.
Committee chairman Riaz Fatyana deferred the issue till June 21 and issued directions to concerned officials and members of the committee to ensure their presence at the next meeting so that a proper parliamentary inquiry can be kicked off to establish whether the women were actually murdered.
The women had been allegedly sentenced to death by a tribal jirga after a video was released in which they were seen singing and dancing, in alleged defiance of tribal traditions.
Chief Secretary Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Ghulam Dastgir Khan, Home Secretary Azam Khan and Commissioner Hazara Divisional Khalid Umarzai appeared before the committee to share the resutlts of their investigations. But when the issue was deferred, the officials were asked to compile additional investigation points and present them during the next hearing.
The K-P government officials claimed that the women against whom a death decree had been issued, were safe and a couple of them are living with their families. But last week when the authorities from Hazara Division were asked by the Supreme Court to produce the women before the bench hearing a suo moto case on the issue, they were unable to do so.
Chairman of the committee also discussed suitable dates, with the members in attendance, to travel to Kohistan to gather a view of the on ground situation and meet the locals to investigate the issue themselves.
‘HEC not releasing salaries, stipends’
The panel later took up an issue pertaining to the Higher Education Commission for not releasing salaries to its faculty of public sector and stipends to 5,000 indigenous scholars from across the country, particularly those belonging to conflict-hit areas including tribal regions facing difficulties.
The officials of HEC responded that the ministry of finance was yet to release their funds for the last quarter, and despite repeated efforts and requisitions, the finance ministry did not offer an answer.
The chairman, after hearing suggestions from all members of the committee, issued directions to the finance ministry to immediately release the funds of HEC so that the faculty members and students can get their amount paid to meet their requirements well in time.
Threats to Asma Jahangir
At the end of the meeting, the Human Rights panel took stern notice of life threats being given to renowned lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jahangir.
The committee directed the interior ministry to immediately provide security to Jahangir and said that the National Assembly body would call a special meeting to look into the matter which is “quite of a serious nature”.
The chairman ruled that all the parties that have been mentioned by Jahangir for alleged threats would be summoned to the meeting to get their stance. Jahangir will also be summoned before the committee, he added.
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