Elders in Sheikhan village near the border of Akka Khel, Khyber Agency have received their third letter in less than two months, warning them to either kill a local woman accused of ‘ill character’ or hand her over to Lashkar-e-Islam (LI).
The letters were sent to an Afghan prayer leader and directly addresses village elders, blaming Reshma* for immoral behaviour. In them, militants have asked villagers to hand over the married woman if they cannot kill her, saying LI will ‘take care of her.’
Fearing for their own safety, village elders are unable to decide what to do. They summoned Reshma’s husband and handed him the letters, which he then took and quietly left.
The elders, however, know the house of the accused woman is just a stone’s throw from Khyber Agency and the militants can come take her away at any time. Fortunately, they have agreed to not obey the instructions of militants to kill her. “We cannot kill people for them,” said an elder requesting anonymity.
On the other hand, Reshma said her only crime is answering the door when her husband, who is a government employee, is away at work. “I have eight children and am at least 45 years old. I‘m no longer a girl, but even then they have been after me since the past few months,” she added.
“I am not a woman of bad character, but these militants are creating trouble for us and we suspect the involvement of our neighbours in this. My husband has already vowed to resist any such attempt to hand me over to Lashkar-e-Islam.”
Through resolute, Reshma said they are too poor to abandon their home in Sheikhan village and move to Peshawar or some other area.
Reshma’s 15-year-old son Farooq said the letters were hand-written in Urdu and contained a telephone number. He added they were sent by militant commander Faqir Muhammad of Khyber Agency.
“We cannot talk to anyone about it as it is a great shame for the entire family for a woman to be blamed of bad character. But we are equally worried our house could be attacked and my mother could be killed or taken away by militants,” he said.
*Name has been changed to protect identity
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.