The death of whistle-blower

Afzal Kohistani's long fight for justice ended in his death


Editorial March 11, 2019

Who will dare blow the whistle? The state failed to provide protection to the life of the young man who brought the Kohistan video scandal to the fore. Afzal Kohistani was shot dead in a densely-populated area of Abbottabad in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province by unidentified armed men who fled after avenging the “dishonor brought upon a tribe”.

The Kohistan video scandal made headlines in 2012. The mobile phone video – which showed five girls and three boys at what was apparently a wedding party in a remote village in Kohistan – went viral on social media. The girls were singing and clapping as the boys danced at the mixed gathering.

Afzal, the brother of one of boys featuring in the video, later alleged in an interaction with the media that the five girls had been killed in May 2012 by members of their own tribe in line with the decree of a jirga which thought that the youngsters had violated tribal customs and brought dishonour upon the tribe.

In further punishment, three of Afzal’s brothers were killed inside their home in January 2013 reportedly by men belonging to the girls’ tribe while a child lost his life when Afzal’s home was burned down.

Time and again, Afzal had warned all concerned that his life was in danger, and he remained in hiding for fear of life for more than seven years.

In June 2012, the then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary had taken a suo motu notice of the case, and a new case was also registered on the Supreme Court’s orders in July 2018 – but all that was not enough to save the life of Afzal who had to pay the price of raising voice against the brutal killings in the name of honour.

Afzal’s long fight for justice ended in his death. But his struggle will certainly not go in vain if his death could rouse the rulers to step out against the deep-seated tribal mindset under a comprehensive strategy.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2019.

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