PESHAWAR: Four men allegedly involved in the killing of a female NGO worker were arrested on Monday after the provincial Human Rights Directorate intervened.
Hina Shahnawaz, 27, had been shot four times by unknown assailants in Kohat’s Astarzai area on February 6 after her relatives objected to her working outside the home.
Initially, her cousin Mehboob Alam was considered to be the prime suspect. But the murder case took a new turn when Alam, who had been directly nominated in the case and absconding, appeared on social media and claimed his innocence.
“Four persons — including one from Rawalpindi — have been arrested while four more suspects are still at large,” Kohat operations SP Tariq Mehmood told The Express Tribune, adding, “The remaining four persons will be arrested during the current week.”
Shahnawaz had been working at an NGO in Islamabad to support her widowed mother and sister-in-law after her father and brother passed away.
Her brother had already been killed by unidentified men in the area and since she was the lone breadwinner of her family, the deceased’s uncle and the accused’s father had been convincing her to marry his son but she rejected the proposal.
“Yes, an initial probe suggests that the sole cause behind Shahnawaz’s murder was her commitment to utilising her energies and ability to support her family which, according to the arrested people, was not in accordance with the Pashtun culture,” was the way Mehmood responded to a query of The Express Tribune.
He said the murdered woman was reluctant to discontinue her studies as well as the job she had been doing, adding the accused also revealed that the deceased was willing to apply for a job outside the country which further angered her family.
The SP said the investigation into the murder case was accelerated after the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Human Rights Directorate intervened and issued a letter, seeking updates in what it called ‘honour killing’.
“The HRD has taken serious notice of the incident under Section 6 of the Promotion, Protection and Enforcement the Human Rights Act-2014 and you are therefore called upon to submit a comprehensive report regarding the said incident and the action taken within 14 days,” read a copy of the notice available with The Express Tribune.
A HRD official said the incident involved breach of the most fundamental and basic right of life of the probable victim of honour killing, adding the department knew that a case had been lodged against the alleged murderers and was being probed but “the HRD wanted to know what has been done so far”.
“Look, we are here to give the general public relief,” HRD legal deputy director Malik Maqsood Ali told The Express Tribune, adding, “Some human rights activists are also in contact with the directorate.”
Ali said the department also received some applications from rights activists who had been told that the directorate had already taken notice of the issue and the officials concerned were asked to submit details of the investigation.
Pakistan sees thousands of cases of violence against women every year, from rape and acid attacks to sexual assault, kidnappings and so-called ‘honour killings’.
Domestic abuse, and other violence and economic discrimination make Pakistan the world’s third-most-dangerous country for women, a 2011 Thomson Reuters Foundation expert poll showed.