Barbaric Act

Five women have been buried alive in Balochistan merely because they married as per their own choice instead of following age old tribal law and traditions. This barbaric act has surfaced only after intense media reporting and for once there is wide scale condemnation of a tradition which has existed for decades but intrinsically reeks of violence.

Amidst all the hue and cry, the investigation team is trying to determine whether the women were buried alive or murdered before being buried. To my mind, this is laughable because regardless of whether they were buried alive or were murdered before burial, they were brutally killed and treated like objects instead of as humans.

The perpetrators of this crime say that they were merely following tradition and age old customs and would repeat this act if the chance came their way again as for them its a matter of honor. Parliament has condemned this act; however, a couple of members have refrained from voting as they are also proponents of brutality and contunuation of age old traditions whereby they deem the male race as superior and guardians of honor

There is no justification for this crime and regardless of what anyone says, the perpetrators must be brought to justice and given the most extreme punishment possible in order to dissuade others from following in their footsteps.

The hue and cry raised by the media heralds a wind of change and an inclination towards the fact that the nation is finally waking up and wants change in society. There are rotten apples throughout the country but if we slowly and gradually remove some of them, maybe we can move forward. The journey is long but as Lao Tzu says ‘Even a journey of a thousand miles must begin with but a single step.’ There may be hurdles along the way but we must move forward and the media must actively highlight the injustices prevalent in society. I for one am optimistic that change is in the offing because the only thing that is permanent in this world is change itself. Lets all hope for the best!!!!

  1. This is indeed a horrific story. It is often hard to judge other cultures by our own standards, but there are some acts that transcend that – and this is one of them.

  2. When will south asians learn to treat women with respect, likewise in India the tradition of satti is still practiced in smaller villages that is the widow burning with her husband on his funeral pyre…un believable in this day and age.

  3. Nothing new about this.. who knows how many women are killed and disposed of this way here..the only thing new is the awareness being brought about by the media which in itself has its own political tilt.

  4. Some new developments

    The Balochistan police, in a bid to destroy any available evidence, have removed three of the bodies of the five women who were buried alive in Baba Kot, Jafferabad. (For details please refer to the AHRC Urgent Appeal: PAKISTAN: Five women buried alive, allegedly by the brother of a minister – The women, including three young girls between 16 – 18 years-of-age were buried alive after being shot because the three younger girls wanted to marry persons of their own choice. The bodies were finally recovered on September 2, 2008.

    The bodies of the five women were initially shifted between midnight on August 30 and 31 after being desecrated by wild animals as the ‘graves’ were less than two feet deep. It is firmly believed that the police and provincial authorities, who are under tremendous pressure from protests through out the country and debates in the Senate and provincial assembly of Sindh, shifted the bodies in order to destroy evidence. It is an accepted fact by the government of Pakistan and authorities in Balochistan that all the women were buried in a single grave at Baba Kot. However, the local area police have announced the recovery of only two bodies. Eye witnesses, living in the area reported that during the night of Saturday the early morning of Sunday, the police, in the company of some soldiers arrived with heavy equipment and removed the bodies in an ambulance belonging to a famous charitable organization.

    Despite the delay of over a month and a half the police have not instigated an investigation or made any effort to arrest the perpetrators. The main perpetrator has a history of killing people on the pretext of honor killings. It is known that he previously killed eight persons on the same pretext. In the month of May 2008, he purchased impunity by paying a fine of Rs. 10 million (around US $150,000.) through a Jirga (an illegal tribal judiciary), which was presided over by Mr. Nadir Magsi, the provincial minister of the Sindh government. The money was paid in compensation to the families of the victims.

    Since the disclosure of the case by the Asian Human Rights Commission the Balochistan police have started destroying any evidence that might prove useful to an eventual investigation. First, the inspector general of police (IGP) Balochistan sent a report to federal secretary of the interior, denying the existence of such a case. This report was rejected out of hand by the secretary of the interior who demanded a factual report. He was particularly concerned by the incident as the chief minister of Balochistan was mentioned in the urgent appeal. However, the IGP’s second report was also rejected by the secretary. The federal government then assigned Mr. Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), to investigate the case and report. Contrary to expectations, as the perpetrators had been named, Mr. Sheikh arrested three of the relatives of two of the deceased girls. These persons confessed, as is usual for people in police custody, to the killings and the burials. Strangely, the police have arrested seven persons in connection with the case but have so far only recovered two of the bodies which are vital for forensic evidence.

    The police surgeon, Dr. Mashwani, while disclosing the report, said that the girls were killed by blunt weapons and not by bullets but then later in the evening of the same day she told a television channel that bullet marks were also found. It was later confirmed in the media that the girls had been shot dead.

    The advisor to the prime minister on interior affairs and minister in charge, Mr. Rehman Malik, is also contributing to the confusion over the case. On September 4, he told the media that three persons had been killed while traveling in a taxi and that their bodies had been properly bathed before burial. He categorically stated that there was no information that five women had been buried alive. The minister was, in fact, referring to another case which occurred in January 2006 in which the same perpetrators killed three persons at Shahi Chowki, who were traveling in a taxi. Ms. Parveen, a school teacher, was going with her boy friend to be married at a civil court. All the three were killed by their assailants.

    After a debate in the senate Mr. Tariq Khosa, former Inspector General of Police, was assigned to investigate the case but, unaccountably, the paperwork authorizing him to head a committee and make inquiries on the behalf of the government was never finalised. The Balochistan police hurriedly took charge of the case and even prevented Mr. Khosa from visiting the province. Now it is reported that the government of Pakistan has halted further investigations into the case.

    There are conscious efforts by persons with vested interests and those in official circles to hide the facts about the case. Currently there are no independent investigation procedures in Pakistan to investigate cases of heinous crimes. In addition to this, there is an alarming lack of sensitivity among the legal professionals, including the judiciary regarding the practice of torture, violence against women and tribal traditions and customs against the weaker sections of the population. In such circumstances the damage such practices causes to the possibility of maintaining the rule of law in the country goes understated. This lack of sensitivity is equally shared by the prosecution and the law enforcement agencies. It is due to this there is a lack of development in the criminal law jurisprudence in Pakistan. Pakistan has thus far failed to effectively address the question of violence by the powerful groups.

    There is a need to conduct a thorough and independent judicial enquiry into this case so that the facts can be revealed. In a case where five women are buried alive in the pretext of honour killings it is absolutely vital that such a heinous crime be investigated and the perpetrators punished to the fullest extent of the law. A complete overhaul of the investigation system is the demand of the day. In any case before them, the prosecution must use the very latest developments available to uncover the truth and not rely on confessions which are usually obtained through torture.

Comments are closed.