The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strongly condemned the decision of an assistant political agent in Khyber Agency to acquit two alleged murderer, based upon a Jirga verdict, who had confessed to killing their maternal uncle and their sister-in-law in a so-called honour crime. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the commission said that the HRCP is astounded over a decision of the Assistant Political Agent (APA) Landi Kotal, Khyber Agency, to acquit two brothers charged with murdering their sister-in-law and their maternal uncle in November last and later claiming that the victims had ‘illicit relations’. “The two brothers were arrested and in their recorded statements both had confessed to committing the crime.”
“A five-member Jirga was appointed which concluded that the accused should be asked to take an oath on the Holy Quran that in killing their sister-in-law and their maternal uncle ‘they had done nothing wrong (with malafide intention)’. The Jirga stated that if the accused took the oath, the murders stood ‘justified’ as per Riwaj and the accused should be acquitted.”In finding the accused innocent, the APA wrote in his order that the Jirga verdict ‘is clear and in accordance with the local Riwaj.’ He added: ‘I agree with the verdict of the Jirga members. The Jirga’s verdict was read out to the parties. The defendant party was found ready to take the oath prescribed by the Jirga members. However, the plaintiff party refused to get oath from the defendant party. As the plaintiff party has refused to get the prescribed oath from the defendant party, the accused are held innocent and released on bail forthwith.”
“All civilised human beings would be appalled by the fact that in this day and age such atrocious practices are not only accepted in the tribal areas but are also enforced on a regular basis by what passes off as the justice system. The Constitution clearly declares all customs contrary to law to be void, and yet the Riwaj survives and is enforced as the superior courts have no jurisdiction in the tribal areas. “We call upon the government to immediately issue clear directions to judicial and quasi-judicial officials in the tribal areas to absolutely disregard the so-called Riwaj in trying criminal cases. A human life should not have such little value just because a citizen is unfortunate enough to reside in the tribal areas,” the HRCP added.