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Kohistan video scandal: Police fail to produce ‘missing’ girls once again

KOHISTAN: Police blame the division of Kohistan for once again failing to bring forward five women related to a notorious cell phone video, along with their parents, as ordered by the district court in February.

The women, who disappeared in 2012, are suspected to be dead, despite their parents insisting otherwise. However, they have proved unwilling to bring them before the court as proof that they are alive, claiming their tribal customs prohibit them from doing so.

While representing the police, DSP Headquarter Shahnaz Khan, told the court that since the families lived in lower Kohistan, the new administrative setup prevented them from producing the girls in court.

Four women of the Azadkhel tribe – Bazigha, Begum Jan, Sereen Jan and Amina – were filmed singing and clapping while two boys belonging to the Salekhel tribe were dancing during a wedding ceremony in 2012. When the video was leaked to the Azadkhel tribe, a jirga comprising 12 elders condemned the four women along with a minor girl, Shaheen, for arranging the gathering. It also condemned the two boys and their families to death.

Later, it was reported that the four women in the video, along with the girl, were killed on May 30, 2012 in accordance with the jirga’s decree.

The three elder brothers of the boys filmed were gunned down earlier. Five men were sentenced to life imprisonment for these murders while one Azadkhel tribeman was sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court took suo motu notice and sent a fact-finding mission to the area on June 4, 2012 that concluded that the women were alive. However, the case was re-opened after a petition was filed with the district judge Kohistan in February, by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Islamabad, accusing the parents of providing false information about their daughters.

This is not the first time police have failed to satisfy the court.

On February 11 this year, District and Sessions Judge Sardar Muhammad Irshad had asked the District Police Officer (DPO) to produce the five girls in court on February 26, and if they have been murdered, their bodies should be exhumed and brought before the court.

On March 18, Kohistan police produced a written statement of the parents of all the five girls, which claimed that the girls were alive in the remote village of Achar.

The court did not change the previous order however and asked police to bring forward the missing girls, or their bodies, along with their parents.

On Wednesday, the court issued a notice for April 23, asking Lower Kohistan’s District Police Officer to follow the same court order.

While the police’s counsel argued that the bifurcation of Lower Kohistan was the reason for the absence of the individuals listed in the court order, a divisional bench of Peshawar High Court had stayed the division of Lower Kohistanin response to a writ petition filed by a committee of over 80 tribal elders. The high court also served show-cause notices to the District Police Officer and Deputy Commissioner of Lower Kohistan for continuing their official work despite the stay order.

Express Tribune