Ambreen’s killers walk free

Judge says prosecution failed to prove case of girl burnt alive for helping friend elope

Zubair Ayub February 23, 2019
Judge says prosecution failed to prove case of girl burnt alive for helping friend elope. PHOTO: FILE

ABBOTTABAD: An Anti-Terrorism Court on Friday acquitted all of the 15 people accused of burning 16-year old Ambreen in Makool village of Galyat three years ago.

Anti-Terrorism Court Special Judge Aurangzeb Khattak in his order said that due to lack of evidence all the 15 people who were suspected of involvement in the burning alive of teenager Ambreen in Abbottabad in May 2016 were freed as prosecution failed to prove the case.

Galyat projected worldwide as a beautiful tourist spot exposed a community which tied a helpless girl in a van and set it afire – her crime ¬ helping a school friend elope in that vehicle.

Her parents could not protect her from the customs of mountain community.

The incident got worldwide attention through print and electronic media including social media and the then K-P government announced it will own the case by doing justice for which K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser personally appeared in the court and announced to appear before the court in person every time to show solidarity with the ill-fated family.

The case was pleaded from accused side by Ghulam Mujtaba Advocate while Public Prosecutor appeared on behalf of the victim family.

After the verdict, Yasir, father of the slain girl, talking to the media said that the killers walked free because he could not afford a good lawyer.

Although his own wife was among the accused, for not informing the police despite knowing the jirga’s decision to kill her daughter, Yasir demanded of chief justice and prime minister to bring the perpetrators of the heinous murder of his daughter to justice.

Yasir said the K-P government had assured him of providing a senior lawyer but nothing was done and the public prosecutor failed to prove the case in which the suspects had confessed to their crime.

Police had arrested 14 members of the Jirga that ordered the death of the teenage girl because she helped a schoolgirl elope with her boyfriend.

The Jirga members were traced through mobile phone calls to suspects picked up earlier. After their arrest the accused confessed to ordering the murder of 16-year-old Ambreen Riasat for arranging secret meetings between her schoolmate S* and the man she eventually eloped with. District Police Officer Khurram Rasheed had told a news conference in May 2016.

The Jirga members had met on April 28 at the house of Naseer Ahmed, the owner of a high-roof van, which the couple used to elope. A day later, the charred body of Ambreen was found tied to the rear seat of a gutted vehicle in a village near Islamabad.

Police had earlier rounded up several suspects including the girl’s mother and brother in connection with  the murder. The victim’s mother, Shamim Bibi, was arrested for not sharing the jirga’s decision with the police despite being aware of it.

The victim’s body was found in the same pick-up van that was used by the couple to escape from Makol Payen village on April 23.

DPO Khurram said the tribal elders condemned the role of Ambreen as well as Naseer and ordered that the girl should be set on fire for dishonouring the entire village while the vehicle of Naseer should also be set ablaze.

After the verdict, the girl was taken to an abandoned house, drugged and then strangled to death.

To confuse the investigators, the DPO said, a similar van parked next to the one with the body was gutted in the fire and three other vehicles were partially damaged.

Besides Shamim and Naseer, those arrested are village council nazim Pervez, Safdar, Siraj, Shabbir, Javed, Gul Zareen, Afzal, Munir, Umar Zeb, Saeed, Gul Zaman Sattar and Gul Zaman Akbar. Two more suspects named Pervez and Wajid are on the run.

However, the evidence against the suspects was believed to not be 'adequate' as police officials had arrested the accused individuals by going through their cell phone records.

Mohammad Naseer, the driver and owner of the vehicle, had lodged an FIR under Sections 302/436 and 427 with the Donga Gali police on April 29 against the torching of his vehicle.

S, the girl who had allegedly eloped with Ambreen's help, stated that the deceased knew nothing about her marriage. "She knew nothing about my marriage and she was not my friend," S had told the media.

Earlier the main responsibility of investigation was put on the shoulders of Counter Terrorism Department after the insertion of terrorism sections charged on the 14 accused and now JIT (Joint Investigation Team) is strengthened with the inclusion of Donga Police, Special Branch and officials of police investigation wing of Abbottabad. Team is headed by DSP Investigation Aziz Khan.

It is also placed on record that special function was held then after the arrest of 15 accused and prizes and certificates were given to the police team then by the speaker KPK Asad Qaiser as big achievement but they could not be found guilty.

At that time during investigation it was demanded by certain quarters for the need of scientific approach to find out the culprits involved in one of the worst acts of barbarism in Hazara division.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2019.


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