If you Google Rawalakot and glance at the pictures, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is the ideal place to fall in love.
Not so for a couple from the district in Azad Kashmir.
Tahira Hayat, 27, married Saeed Hussain Shah, 29, on January 26, but now her family wants them both dead. The couple is in dire straits, as the police are aware of the family’s demands and have even given their tacit consent. Meanwhile, banned religious parties are also part of the mob baying for blood.
Late Wednesday, it emerged that Tahira had reached a shelter for women in Lahore. “Tahira Hayat contacted Women Workers Help Line (WWHL) and requested shelter as well as legal and social support,” said Saima Zia, spokesperson for WWHL.
“WWHL referred her to Dastak, a shelter for women, for the time being,” Saima said. The couple had previously been in hiding.
Talking to The Express Tribune by telephone from their hideout on Sunday, the couple said they had gone into hiding of their own consent since there was a threat to their lives.
The parents of the bride, assisted by officers from the Datot police station, Rawalakot, held a jirga on February 3 and demanded, in front of police officials, that the couple be handed over to them. They reportedly admitted to all present that it was their intention to shoot the couple dead.
The bride’s family also demanded Rs1 million and a girl from the groom’s family as compensation for the marriage. The police approved the deal but the groom’s family refused to comply, saying the demand was inhumane and barbaric.
Acting on behalf of the bride’s parents, Maulana Aftab Kashir, a member of the banned outfit Sipah-i-Sahaba, Saleem Javed, an activist from the local chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami, Muhammad Hussain Bashani, from another banned outfit Jamaatud Dawa, refused to accept an apology from the man’s family and insisted that the couple be shot dead.
The couple’s lawyer expressed fear that they could be abducted and killed any moment.
In 2007, Saeed wanted to marry Tahira but was turned away; the reason – Tahira was better educated. She was married to her cousin later in the year against her will and divorced the following year.
She eventually married Saeed on January 26, 2012, in Rawalpindi.
Two days later, more than six armed men tried to abduct Tahira at gunpoint when the couple was going to the market from their hideout. They were able to escape and informed the Chaklala police, who refused to file the case. The couple then filed an application before the First Class Magistrate of Rawalpindi.
Atif Hayat, the girl’s brother, denies that they came to a verdict of death at the jirga. He also accused Saeed of blackmailing his sister and forcing her to flee with him.
On the other hand, Nisar Hussain Shah, Saeed’s brother, told The Express Tribune that the parents of the girl have demanded a divorce, a penalty of Rs1 million and the return of the gold ornaments and Rs200,000 which she allegedly took from her house. Nisar also said that the rival party demanded the marriage of a girl from their family.
Nisar said that his family has asked Superintendent of Police Rawalakot, Rashid Naeem, for security for the couple. “We are ready to accept the girl wedded to our son according to their own will,” said Tufail Hussain Shah, Saeed’s father.
Commenting on the jirga’s decision to kill the couple, Naeem denied that such a gathering took place.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2012.