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Tuesday February 27, 2024

Human rights activist blames state, judicial system for Kohistan girl murder

“If the men involved in the 2011 case were strictly punished, this wouldn’t have happened," says Dr Farzana Bari

November 27, 2023
A representational image of a gun being held with the intention to fire. — Unsplash
A representational image of a gun being held with the intention to fire. — Unsplash

After the remote Kohistan valley witnessed another horrific honour killing case, allegedly linked to a viral video, human rights activist Dr Farzana Bari blamed the state and judicial system for the murder.

A young girl was allegedly murdered, while another was rescued by the police after their video, also featuring boys went viral on social media around four days ago. Police said the girl was killed by her own family on orders issued by a local jirga.

The incident took place on Sunday in the Barsharyal village of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Kolai-Palas district — 150km northwest of Mansehra, which now comes under the Hazara division.

Following the killing, the boys went into hiding, while the other girl was handed over to her family after being produced before the magistrate, The News reported.

Dr Bari, who was a member of the three-member commission constituted to probe the 2011 video scandal in a Kohistan village, said she was angry, upset and depressed after hearing about the killing of the girl.

On a phone call with Geo.tv, she shared that the perpetrators of the 2011 video case were recently released, has yet again sparked a similar trend of honour killing in Kohistan.

“If the men involved in the 2011 case were strictly punished, this wouldn’t have happened. Everyone in Kohistan knows that the previous culprits have been released, who are now threatening to kill the remaining three of the seven Kohistani brothers,” she said, speaking to Geo.tv.

Speaking about the safety of the rescued girl, Bari said she would be murdered sooner or later and remains under threat. 

“She has probably been misguided by her family. Knowing the kind of mindset that exists in the area, I think this girl would be killed.”

Bari said she hadn’t seen the video and was sceptical about why one girl was killed while the other was spared, terming the case “a bit strange”.

The activist reiterated she has no faith in the system.

She mentioned that there was fear among people in terms of making such decisions after the culprits were arrested and put behind bars.

“It is important to think what message has been communicated to that area through their release. It is no big deal for them to be jailed for four to five years. But they would easily continue to take revenge after being released. They think it is a rationalised way of living,” she added.

The human rights activist added that the police have assured to provide protection to the men, but she remains dissatisfied with their assurance. “The brothers are now trying to save their lives because as soon as the culprits got released they have been threatening to kill them.”

The state, she added, is non-existent in people’s lives and the system is being manipulated by these culprits who happen to be well off and can buy off the system including police and judiciary in their favour. 

Police begin probe

The body of the murdered girl was shifted to a nearby health facility for doctors to carry out medico-legal formalities and was later handed over to the family.

Deputy Superintendent of Police, Palas, Masood Khan told journalists that one of the two girls, whose video went viral, had been killed, while the other was rescued and produced before a local magistrate to record a statement.

According to Khan, the girl said she felt no threat to her life by her family and wanted to go with them instead of being shifted to Dar-ul-Aman.

The cop said the Station House Officer (SHO) of the Palas police station lodged a first information report of the murder by himself under sections 302/311 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

"We have launched an investigation to trace those who killed the girl and who either advised or convened a jirga and sentenced her to death," he said.

The DSP said nobody was above the law and all those involved in brutal killing would be brought to justice at any cost.

The jirga in such murders executed in the name of honour declares men and women as culprits and eliminates them.

The incident comes more than 10 years after a similar chilling incident left the country shocked when five women were murdered on a jirga decree after their video clapping to a man dancing at a family event went viral in 2011.

Three brothers of the man in the video, too, were killed later, while the case was highlighted by their other brother Afzal Kohistani in 2012, who was also shot dead in March 2019 in Abbottabad after severe threats to his life.

The case, which garnered international attention, was taken to the Supreme Court in 2013 after which then chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took its suo motu notice and sentenced those involved to life imprisonment.