The mystery surrounding the case of five Kohistani women, allegedly condemned to death following a jirga verdict declaring them ghul (fornicators) for singing with men at a ceremony, deepened on Saturday as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government’s latest attempt to verify facts remained unfruitful.
The second fact-finding mission, set out to collect documentary evidence in the case, returned to Pattan from Seertaiy village in the Peech Bala area on Saturday, with more questions than answers.
The mission was headed by Additional District Judge Muneera Abbasi and comprised Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Awami National Party’s MNA Bushra Gohar, Dr Farzana Bari, DCO Kohsitan Syed Aqil Shah, District Police Officer Abdul Majeed Afridi and elders of the Azadkhel tribe.
According to an official source accompanying the commission, the jirga was held on the rooftop of the house of Jin Taseer of the Azadkhel tribe, and the officials informed the elders that they had come to confirm the Supreme Court’s order that all women filmed in the video were alive and would not be harmed.
The elders welcomed the commission, and denied that any of the women filmed were killed on the decree of the jirga, terming media reports wrong and aimed at maligning Kohistan’s tribal culture.
The tribal elders, including Maulvi Javed, the alleged head of the jirga that condemned the women and men to death, and Omar Khan, brother of two of the condemned women, also assured Abbasi that the women were alive and would not be harmed.
Later, Abbasi, MNA Gohar and Bari were reportedly allowed to see the girls inside the house. Sources claimed that they met Seerin Jan and Begum Jan. The commission supposedly verified the two with the video footage and copies of their pictures that they had obtained. They also reportedly tried to speak to them with the help of a male translator. But, Bazgha, one of the women in the video, was not presented to them, because according to Bari, the tribesmen informed them that she was pregnant and was unable to move.
However, Bari, a human rights activist, publicly refused to endorse the identity of the women produced before them. The tribesmen also did not allow the commission members to take them to the Supreme Court. Bari expressed fear that the women the mission met might not be the ones who were filmed. She added that she wanted the two boys, jailed for filming the video, to verify the pictures of the women, but the police did not allow her to meet them.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2012.