KOHISTAN: Four women of the Azad Khel tribe allegedly paid the ultimate price after being ‘condemned’ to death by a jirga for defying strict tribal customs. Their crime: singing and dancing with men at a wedding ceremony.
Another girl was also reportedly killed for being ‘an accomplice’. The women were shot dead by their families in a remote village of UC Peech Bela, Palas tehsil, independent sources said on Sunday.
However, police and official sources rejected the allegation and insisted that the women were safe in their homes.
Two months ago, footage showing the four women singing Kohistani folk songs and clapping for two women of the Salikhel tribe was made public.
The police had registered an FIR against two brothers, Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar, for allegedly making the film and uploading it on a video sharing site.
The video caused a furore in the community, which felt the video had stained the honour of the tribeswomen. According to sources, elders of the Azad Khel tribe summoned a jirga at the Seertaiy village, which sentenced the four women and the two men to death.
It was reported that both men had fled the area. However, they were arrested by the police in Alai tehsil, Battagram district on Sunday.
According to Yasir and Nazar’s elder brother, Muhammad Afzal, the women were called back from their in-laws and locked in a room.
He added that their family members subjected the women to severe torture – threw hot water on them, beat them, and kept them in isolation for two months.
Afzal also said that the jirga sent over 30 men to kill of his brothers.
However, after the jirga’s ruthless verdict was reported in the media, the men were called back to the village to kill the women first.
At around two in the morning on May 30, the four women along with a teenage girl were taken out of the room, shot dead and buried at some distance from their village, Afzal alleged.
He said that the teenage girl, believed to be a sister of one of the women, was killed after being suspected of being an ‘accomplice’ and keeping the gathering a secret.
“Yes, they killed the condemned women on May 30,” a resident of the Seertaiay village, who belongs to Chootaykhel tribe, said on the condition of anonymity.
He said the family had to implement the jirga’s decision at every cost to uphold the culture of the area.
The Express Tribune was the first to break the news of the jirga’s decision two weeks ago. Two members of the jirga, Maulvi Javed, who runs a seminary in Mansehra and Maulvi Noorul Haq, a former union nazim, were booked under section 107 of the PPC.
Meanwhile, Hazara Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai refuted the reports, saying that the women were safe and secure in their homes. A team of investigators had returned from the remote village on Saturday after recording the statement of one of the girl’s mother who confirmed that the women were safe. Umerzai also accused the media of creating hype on a baseless issue.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain also said that the reports were “wrong and baseless”. Nevertheless, he said he has directed the Kohistan DCO to send an investigation team to the area.
However, an unnamed police source neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying that he could not comment on the issue.
Head of the legal section of the National Commission on Status of Women Riffat Bibi told The Express Tribune that if the women were alive the district administration must present them before the court.
She also strongly condemned the jirga system in Kohistan, adding that the NCSW had already moved the apex court for a ban against parallel justice.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.