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Conflicting reports about killing of Kohistan women

Nisar Ahmad Khan

MANSEHRA: The man who had broken the news of a fatwa issued by some local ulema in Kohistan to kill two brothers and four women for dancing at a wedding ceremony came up with the more shocking news on Sunday that the four women seen in the video of the wedding dance and another woman had been killed by their relatives in the village of Pales.

But the claim was rejected by the Hazara division commissioner and district police office and an FIR was registered against four people, including Mohammad Afzal who had reported the matter. They have been charged with misleading people.

Mr Afzal called reporters and told them that the women seen in the video and another one, said to be their friend, had been killed by their families in accordance with the ulema’s decree issued last month.

He said he had left his village along with his two brothers who figured in the video and were under threat because of the decree.
But he had been in contact with people in his village and they informed him about the killing of the women on May 30.

Challenging the local administration’s denial, he said if the women were alive they should be brought to court. Otherwise, he said, he would go to a court and demand their production.

When contacted, district police chief Abdul Majid Afridi said: “We have booked four people — three brothers and the man who recorded a video in a wedding ceremony and used it to propagate reports regarding a so-called decree issued by a cleric calling for killing four women and two brothers for dancing in the party.”

The district administration and ulema say no jirga was held and no decree was issued. Mr Afridi said the FIR had been registered under Sections509, 505 and of the Pakistan Penal Code and 18 of the Motion Picture Ordinance against Mr Afzal, his brothers Gulnazray and Binyasir, who are seen in the video, and their fried Shahzaday who allegedly made the video and transmitted it to others.

“Once these people are arrested, everything will become clear.” But, Mr Afridi said, he was certain that these people had made up the story for personal benefit and that the women were alive.

ASI Mohammad Nazir, who recorded the statements of Mr Afzal’s relatives in the village, told reporters that according to the family the women were alive.

He said that besides meeting the families of the women on June 1, he had also met Mr Afzal’s father Narang and mother Munzaray and they had said that the women were alive.

Meanwhile, ulema from across Kohistan district held a jirga in Puttan and condemned what they termed conspiracies being hatched against them.

Former MNA Maulvi Abdul Haleem, known for issuing fatwas, including a recent one in which he said that if women staff of NGOs entered Kohistan they would be married off with locals, also attended the jirga.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Hazara division, Dr Mohammad Naeem told reporters that the killings had not been confirmed by any source. He said the police and administration were in contact with the ulema of the area. A press release issued by Hazara Commissioner Mohammad Khalid Umerzai said reports on a section of the electronic media about the killing of the women were baseless and malicious.

It said the FIR had been registered against the persons concerned to avert a recurrence of such issues.

It said the NGOs and women activists who wanted to go to Pales to verify the incident would be facilitated.

It said a police team led by the Pales DSP had been sent to the area to take action against members of the jirga but it had reported after meeting the area’s clerics, MPA Mufti Mehmood Alam and other public representatives that no such incident had taken place.

Two of the women were living with their husbands in Mansehra and Muzaffarabad and the other two were in their homes, it said.
No-one, including the mothers of the girls whom an SHO had met, had reported any killing, the press release said.

It alleged that the video had been filmed by the brothers of Mr Afzal, a clerk working for an advocate in Mansehra, and he was behind the entire episode.

The interior minister, the commissioner said, had announced that he would send investigators on Monday to look into the matter.