By: Muhammad Sadaqat
KOHISTAN: A district court on Thursday handed the death penalty to one man and life imprisonment to five others implicated in the murder of three siblings of the two boys captured on film in the infamous Kohistan video.
The head of the jirga that ordered the murder of the four girls and two boys appearing in the video, however, was acquitted along with several others despite being accused of abetting the triple murder.
The court’s decision came just a day after human rights activist Farzana Bari held a press conference to urge the apex court to reopen the probe into the alleged murder of five girls in connection with the video, giving fresh ground to suspicions that the fact-finding commission had been duped into believing the girls are alive.
An eight-member jirga ordered the murder of all persons filmed in the video in May 2012, after which the boys featured in the video, Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar, took flight in fear of being killed. Their brothers, 37-year-old Shah Faisal, 35-year-old Sher Wali and 32-year-old Rafiuddin were killed January 3, 2013 on the order of the same jirga as per tribal customs that dictate that relatives of those in the video must also be killed. The remaining relatives of those featured in the leaked video are currently hiding in different parts of the country to take shelter from the jirga’s orders.
According to an FIR registered at the Palas police station, at least 12 armed persons from the Azadkhel tribe (from which the girls hailed) barged into a home in Bando Baidar village and gunned down the three brothers.
Police had arrested jirga chief Maulvi Javed, along with Molvi Noorul Haq, Mosam Khan, Sabeer Khan, Jehngir Khan, Mukhtasar Khan, Awal Khan, Jin Tazeer, Taus Khan, Molvi Yadool Khan, Shamsuddin and Munshi Khan.
During the trial of the 12 accused, district judge Sardar Muhammad Irshad Khan handed capital punishment to Mukhtasar Khan – the paternal uncle of one of the women in the video – with a fine of Rs200,000. Five other family members of the women, Awal Khan, Jin Tazeer,Taus Khan, Maulvi Yadool Khan and Shamsuddin have been given 25-year life sentences with fines for the murder of the three brothers of the Salekhel tribe.
The dispute between the Azadkhel and Salekhel tribes of Palas tehsil in Kohistan began in May 2012 when Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar from the Salekhel tribe namely met four Azadkhel women at a wedding ceremony in Bando Baidar village. During the meeting, one of the two brothers danced and the four women later identified as Bazigha, Begum, Sereen Jan and Amina sang cultural songs in their local language and encouraged the two boys by clapping. One of the two brothers stealthily captured the scene on his cell phone, which were later leaked online.
The Azadkhels called a jirga when they learnt of the clip, as they found it to be against their customs.
An eight-member jirga headed by Maulvi Javed and other tribal elders from the Azadkhels, condemned Bin Yasir and Gul Nazir and their entire family to death, along with the four women seen in the film. Another young girl, 12-year-old Shaheen who allegedly facilitated the meeting, was also sentenced to death.
The police booked the jirga members under section 107 of the Pakistan Penal Code, but were later released on bail.
Afzal Kohistani, the elder brother of the two runaway brothers and three deceased, expressed his satisfaction over the punishment handed to the six accused involved in the murder of his three brothers. He added that although he expected death for all the convicts, he had great respect for the court and has no comment to pass against the judgment.
He vowed to challenge the court’s decision to acquit six of the alleged abettors who were also the jirga members that condemned the women, boys and their entire family to death.
Kohistani said he was again going to file an application in the apex court for the reopening of the case. Unless the assassins of the five innocent women and his three brothers are not brought to justice, he said, cruel tribal traditions would continue to claim innocent lives.