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Kohistan jirga controversy: NA rights panel to probe alleged killings today

By Zia Khan

ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly panel is set to initiate a parliamentary probe into the alleged honour killing of five women ordered by a tribal jirga in Kohistan on Thursday.

The Standing Committee on Human Rights will be briefed by officials, in an attempt to establish whether the women have actually been murdered after they were seen singing in a video with other men present, in alleged defiance of tribal traditions.

Doubts still remain regarding the fate of the women after a tribal jirga allegedly ordered that they be killed after declaring them ‘ghul’ (fornicators).

According to statements made by provincial government officials, the women are safe and a couple of them are living with their husbands in Mansehra and Azad Kashmir respectively. Media reports, however, quote local tribesmen suggesting that they were killed and buried.

A member of the rights committee told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the panel will probably attempt to do what the Supreme Court was unable to do successfully – ask officials and local elders to produce the women to establish they are still alive.

“This is what we will be focusing on today… we will then see what can be done to those who issued edicts and orders for killing the women,” said Jawad Hussain, MNA from Orakzai tribal agency and a member of the committee.

Last week, authorities from Hazara Division failed to comply when the Supreme Court ordered them to bring the women from the remote district to Islamabad before an apex court bench hearing a suo moto case on the issue.

A team of human rights activists which travelled to the area last week was unable to meet all the women against whom the death decree was issued.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Secretary Ghulam Dastgir, Home Secretary Azam Khan and Hazara Divisional Commissioner Khalid Umarzai are likely to appear before the committee to share whatever investigation they have conducted so far.

The human rights panel is also scheduled to investigate why the government had failed to fulfil its promise to provide free higher education to students belonging to conflict-hit areas including tribal regions.

The Express Tribune