Walking on coals: Karo and kari declared innocent a year too late

DSP claims that the jirga did not take place in Tangwani.


Sarfaraz Memon August 19, 2011

SUKKUR: A woman who was killed under the pretext of being a kari by her husband was declared garhi (innocent) when a jirga led by Ghulam Mohammad Marhato met on Wednesday in Bagan Marhato village.

Her husband Khadim Marhato claimed that she was involved with another man and he had threatened to kill Behlo Marhato if he did not present himself in front of a jirga. Behlo Marhato went missing for a year, fearing for his life and he was found last month in Sui. A jirga held in Sui asked him to walk on char belli (burning wood) to prove his innocence. Witnesses claim that he walked on the coals without burning his feet and was declared innocent.

The Wednesday jirga tried to end the fight between the Marhato clans and declared Khadim’s wife Hajul and Behlo innocent, keeping the Sui incident in mind. They also asked Khadim to pay Hajul’s father a fine of Rs900,000. Khadim accepted the verdict and paid his father-in-law Rs100,000, saying that the rest of the money would be paid in three installments. Hajul’s father exclaimed that although his daughter was not alive he was happy that she had been declared innocent.

Khadim Marhato was unavailable for a comment while Behlo Marhato refused to talk to the media. Tangwani DSP reconfirmed the jirga’s judgment and told The Express Tribune that the jirga was not held in Tangwani but in Sui.

The guilt detector

The char belli is a traditional practice in Balochistan where the accused is asked to walk on burnt wood in a 25-feet-wide to 30-feet-wide trench to prove their innocence. If they are innocent then their feet do not get burnt. Scientists have examined the practice and according to one theory some people pass over the fire unscathed because the sweat on the soles of their feet, created by the heat, forms a protective film that keeps the burns away in the few seconds that they take to walk over.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.

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