CHILAS: The highlands, as beautiful and idyllic as they may be, are also very, very troubled. Chilas town, in particular, the headquarters for Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer Valley, an area rich in natural resources but one that hardly has a 10% literacy rate – has also seen a staggering 12 cases of honour killings this year alone.
One such incident is the killing of a mother and her two daughters last month, allegedly over a simple audio clip recording. And yet, as a follow-up reveals, the case may be more complicated.
Shrouded in mystery
The triple murders occurred on June 24, a day after armed men stormed a Nanga Parbat base camp, fatally shooting 10 foreign mountaineers and their Pakistani guide.
According to the police, 65-year-old Iqbal, nicknamed Kutooro, shot his step-mother, 45, and his two sisters, aged 16 and 18, after hearing a ‘objectionable’ recorded conversation in which the mother was allegedly talking to a man identified as Sartaj. When the audio clip made rounds, and residents heard about the area, Iqbal carried out the attack to ‘restore’ the family’s honour.
However, relatives have a different story to tell.
“It’s not correct to say that it was an incident of honour killing,” says Javed, a family member. “It was all about money.”
Javed says that Rahmat Nabi, Iqbal’s father and a retired police officer in the valley, received Rs50,000,000 as compensation for his land, acquired by the government for the Diamer-Bhasha dam project.
Nabi, well into his nineties, has three wives and several children. His third wife, who was killed by Iqbal, was rumoured to be his favourite. According to Javed, he transferred the money to her and children from her, while also allotting two houses to her name.
“The sense of losing everything upset Kutooro [Iqbal] immensely,” says Javed. “He went crazy and went on the killing spree.”
Whispers of conspiracy
A few years ago, Nabi was also jailed for murdering one of his sons-in-law. He was released after two-year imprisonment for being too old and weak.
Javed and other family members say they cannot rule out the involvement of the slain son-in-law’s relatives, who want revenge.
Invasion of privacy
The triple murder also made headlines for another reason – human rights organisations have taken strong exception to the leakage of the recorded conversation.
“It’s an infringement of privacy rights. Under Article 14 privacy rights are guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan,” explains Shahzad Ahmad, the country director of Bytes for All, a human rights organisation with a focus on information and communication technologies. “In this case, technology has been misused, resulting in the loss of precious lives.”
Ahmad says the person who leaked the audio must be taken to task to check the misuse of technology.
According to officials, it is widely believed that Sartaj recorded the conversation and circulated it in the area.
Hilal Ahmed, SP of Diamer Valley, says the person who has leaked the conversation will be brought to justice.
Despite what the relatives claim, Ahmed says there is no doubt that this was, in fact, an honour killing, and also dispels rumours that it was a video recording, not an audio. “All this is mentioned in the FIR,” he remarks. “Investigations are underway and we will soon nab the killer.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.