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September 10, 2019

Justice done?


September 10, 2019

Some seven years after the incident took place, a verdict has been delivered by a district and sessions court in Palas regarding the honour killing of three girls videotaped clapping along to male members of a different tribe dancing at a wedding. The young girls had ventured only to clap their hands, but under the strict tribal codes of orthodox Kohistan, this was enough to sentence them to death. Three commissions were formed to look into the matter. The first, led by Farzana Bari, who visited Kohistan in 2012, opined that the five girls were alive. However, Bari later said she was never certain of the identity of the girls produced before them and whether they were the same as those who had appeared in the grainy video footage from a mobile camera. Several of the brothers who were dancing at the wedding have also been killed since then, including the incredibly brave Afzal Kohistani who tried his best to draw attention to the fate of the women who he always maintained had been killed almost


Now punishment has been meted out. Out of the men brought on trial, three have been sentenced to imprisonment as per the law and five others acquitted. Those imprisoned had confessed to their crime. In Kohistan, many would not consider it a crime at all but an act of honour to save family standing and name. It is being pointed out that the fate of two girls is not known, but they have not been seen in public view since 2012. It is possible they are also dead, and the men who killed them remain free.

It is a travesty that the mere act of bringing hands together at a public gathering could result in such a terrible crime. But in our country, notably in remote locations like the picturesque valleys of Kohistan, this still happens. Afzal Kohistani had done his best to bring attention to the matter. It also took three suo-motu hearings by the Supreme Court for the case to be brought to trial. We need to understand that ‘honour’ killings are simply not acceptable. The delay in action means that justice, even in the limited form it came, was delivered after seven years. This is a long time to wait. And, for those whose lives have in one way or the other been destroyed by the sequence of events which took place after 2012, there can be no way to forget or look back again.

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