Police officials registered a case against 8 panchayat members for ordering the public flogging of a married couple on Sunday.
According to police officials, Phaharpur resident Ramzan allegedly divorced once his wife, Fatima Bibi, in a fit of fury three days ago but the court allowed them to remain living together.
“Apparently in a fit of anger he announced that he divorced his wife once but later the couple reconciled,” said advocate John Masih. “Islamic law requires that the intention to divorce be announced three times and then made public, it also stipulates an iddat period of three months before the divorce can be finalised,” he said.
Despite the court verdict that the couple was not divorced and could continue to live together, a local panchayat declared their marriage to be void and charged them with adultery. “He said that he had divorced her but they were continuing to live together. This is haram,” said a panchayat member Ameenulla Bajwa.
“The panchayat charged the couple with adultery and then ordered that they be publicly flogged and turned out of the village,” said an eyewitness, Rasool. Rasool told police officials that five men performed the flogging and then turned the couple out of the house but local residents approached the police.
“It is absurd because they are married. They quarreled and Ramzan said he divorced her in a fit of rage. They reconciled and divorces aren’t contracted in a day,” said the couples neighbour Ejaz.
After local media aired the news on Sunday, Layyah District Police Officer (DPO) Shahzad Warraich registered cases against the panchayat members.
“These people have no concept of Islam and should not be responsible for making decisions involving religious law. They have completely misread the Shariah law on this matter and the couple were wrongfully been accused of adultery,” said Masih.
Ramzan told police officials that he and his wife had decided not to return to their village because they feared for their lives. “We would prefer to move out of here because even if we go back now we wont be safe.
The police may be arresting the panchayat but their relatives will never let us live in peace,” he told police. “I was wrong to say that I divorced my wife when I was angry but I did not mean it. The court announced that we were still married and it is not their business to intervene in our personal matter,” he said.
Layyah DPO said that 7 panchayat members had already been taken into police custody and police officials were searching for the remaining accused.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.