Honor Killings in Pakistan and a killer video clip

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“After conviction of eight accused in Kohistan video scandal, My life is at risk as squad has been prepared for killing me wherever I was spotted, whether court or outside the court,” Afzal Kohistani had told media persons in his last ever interview on January 27, 2019.

A 30 year old human rights activist and Central character in Kohistan video Scandal, ‘Afzal Kohistani’ who had been struggling against the menace of honour killings, after killing of his three brothers and five women, he was shot dead in crowded bus stand in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s city Abottabad on March 07 this year.

WHO WAS ‘AFZAL KOHISTANI’?

Muhmmad Afzal Saleh opened his eyes in 1989 in the remote village of Gadar of Tehsil Pallas in Kolai Pallas district of Kohistan. In a large family of seven brothers and one sister, he was the sixth child, and the most educated one.
Afzal’s father Naran was a tailor and died when Afzal was just seven.

After his Matriculation from a private school in Dasu, Afzal shifted to Mansehra, completed his LLB from law college Abottabad and also received a diploma in IT. At the same time he began working as a lawyer’s assistant.

Afzal himself had a big family of two wives and four children, but their lives were as happy as they could have been. It was all going smoothly for everyone until a video surfaced, which would change their lives forever.
Afzal had four children, Mahnoor Afzal 11, Itezaz Afzal 6, Amina Afzal 4 and Urwa Noor Afzal 3 of two wives.

BACKGROUND

In the May of 2012, a grainy video of a wedding scene surfaced in which Afzal’s two brothers Bin Yasir and Gul Nazar were dancing in celebration, while four local women Bazigha, Shaheen, Serin Jaan, Begum Jan were clapping along.

Afzal’s own documents inform that soon after the video emerged that a Jirga was held at Mansehra, where a ‘Maulana Javid’ gave a Fatwa for killing the five women, including a young 12 year old girl Amina, and the three boys.

Ironically it was Afzal himself – whose brothers were in the video – who stepped forward to decry the fatwa . He also alleged that the girls had already been killed on May 30, 2012 on the orders of the cleric leading the 40 to 50 member jirga.

At that time, the officials in the area, kept insisting that there had been no murders and that the women were still alive.

That year the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of this case. A fact finding delegation was send to the area led by women’s rights activist Farzana Bari to verify whether the women were alive or dead.

Ms Bari had given a suspicious note to the court upon returning that women are not that, clapping in the video.
After closing the Case by superior court, on January, 03, 2013 Mr Kohistnai three brothers, Sher Wali, Rafiuddin and Shah Faisal were shot dead when they were making ablution at outside a mosque in Gaddar village at Pallas.

Six men were arrested with regard to the shootout and later on, March 28, 2017 Peshawar High Court had acquitted from the case.
In August 2017, Afzal gave an application in the Supreme Court to reopen the case and after reopening it, the court ordered for producing the women. but the Kohistan police were failed to produced and later after investigation the women declared killed and involved people arrested and they confessed killing women for which they convicted by the court.
Afzal began appearing in three cases at this point: the video scandal, the murder of his brothers and one other case. was accused in a fire case of setting fire to a home and after 15 months imprisonment he bailed.
The video scandal case Central character was shot dead just before a day of hearing date of March, 8.

The family has remained grief stricken since Afzal’s killing – and not just for his personal loss, but also because they have been thrown into serious financial crises.

“Afzal had been the sole breadwinner of our entire family including the 18 children of his murdered brothers,” says Gul Nazar, his younger brother. “His death has left us in a more worrisome situation than ever, while our rivals threaten to eliminate the entire family, even though we left the village in 2013.” He says they have been living as refugees, shacking up with a local elder in the hilly area of the Battagram district.

“After living inside the house fear of being killed, we will appear in the court hearings of all cases, related to video scandal,” Bin Yasar, another brother of Kohistani, answered a question.

Both Bin Yasar and Gul Nazar, were called ‘chor’ after they were found dancing in the video along with women of the other tribe.
According to locals, there were just four families of Saleh Khel tribe (Afzal Kohistani’s tribe) living in Gadar village, while the Azad Khel dominate in number and more than 250 families live in Gadar of Pallas.

AFZAL KOHISTANI’S LAST EVER INTERVIEW:

“A squad has been finalized for my execution,” he said. “I have informed the DIG Hazara and DPO Abottabad but instead of providing security to me, they have laughed it off.” The interview is on January 27, 2019 and it is for Dawn.
The interview happened after he came to my office in Bisham (Shangla District) following an appearance in a district and session court of Kollai Pallas, Kohistan. Accompanied by one of his elder brothers, Kohistani had requested me to interview him.
“Ever since the eight accused have been convicted, I have been receiving death threats,” he revealed. “I have also appealed in the Peshawar High court Abottabad bench to hear the case in the Anti-terrorism court ATC.”
He asks that if he is killed who will pursue the case against these killings.

According to Afzal Kohistni, his land and house was occupied by rivals and now intended to remove him from the way, because he was the only witness of the case.
On the other hand, those who were accused roam freely yet afraid that Afzal’s pursuance of the case may end up endangering their freedom.

“Today (January 27) when I arrived in court, my rivals had called some other people to intimidate me,” Kohistani had said “That was the first time I felt the fear of shooting. I request the IGP, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to at least provide me security for appearing in court,” he said.
Despite threats, in the last seven years of struggles, he fought in the courts and proved that the girls clapping in the video had been murdered and after the arrest of the accused, all four confessed the killing of girls in the court and later convicted by court.
Flanked by his elder brother, Shahzada, Afzal Kohistani warned the Hazara Police, and said that they would be responsible if he was murdered as he had been appealing for security.

Afzal Kohistan was a positive minded and peaceful citizen, who also raised education issues of his backward areas through social media, he had been a strong support of media and has journalist friends too.

Afzal had created a Whatsapp group on the name of “Ghreeb KI Sada, Sadaqat Ki Awaz” in which he was sharing his activities particularly the video scandal related stuff.

Afzal Kohistani last message on March 4, in the group was “Bas ALLAH Muaf Kary” May ALLAH forgive us. By replaying to one of journalists question on his scandal related post.

The local people of his regions were completely against him, because they believe that he had defamed and dishounoured the entire Kohistan in the country by highlighting the women issue on media.

Shakirullah, a local youth said that, Locally they call “Chor” to such man involved in women related matters, Should be killed according the local norms.

He said in such cases, innocent, even brothers are killed and the accused relatives also could not raise finger because they considers “Wajib_ul_Qatal”.

But Mufti Ghulamullah of Batera, Kollai Pallas Kohistan, said that according to Islamic point of view killing of women and men for honour is prohibited.
“Sharia is not permit killing of people in such cases, it is against the Islam,” He said.

While answering a question, another local said that Afzal’s rivals are too many as compared to Afzal’s family, after Afzal murder blood feud may go up as Afzal’s brothers may take revenge of their slain brothers.

He said Kohistan’s norms should not be challenged by anyone he may be killed, because it is the local tradition

Even .Journalists, reporting the Kohistan video scandal case, had been receiving threats for exposing it in the media.


CURRENT SCENARIO

Afzal’s younger brothers main accused Bin Yasar and Gul Nazar have started visiting Supreme Court, High Court and local courts, also human rights organizations offices for appearing in cases of Afzal Kohistan in which he was applicant.

On March, 19, Peshawar High Court Abottabad bench in Kohistan Video Scandal case had bailed one of accused Abdur Rehman, while the rest of application canceled.

By now security has been provided by the Hazara division Police to Bin Yasar and Gul Nazar for their home and to their trip to courts .
According to police Afzal’s nephew Faiz Ur Rehman was an eye witness to his murder. Faiz was always present for Afzal’s security and even fired back at the shooters but they managed to escape while Faiz’s bullets only wounded passers-by.

Bin Yasar, also expressed his fear for Faiz Ur Rehman’s life.

Meanwhile Afzal’s family is demanding a return of land and houses occupied by their rivals in Gadar and demand the immediate arrest of Abdul Hameed, the main accused in Afzal murder case.

Senior Superintendent investigation of Police, Abbottabad, Aziz Afridi, who is also head of the commission in the case, said, the Afzal Kohistani case is very sensitive and RPO has given strictly orders in it for arresting the culprits as soon as possible.
“A man was arrested on the spot, while three others were nominated in the FIR by Afzal’s nephew who was under arrest at the time” says Afridi. “Two of them Masoom Khan from Gadar and Habib Ur Rehman from Abottabad have been arrested. While Masoom Khan has been sent to prison, Habib Ur Rehman is still under custody with the Cantt Police in Abottabad and he is being interrogated from different angles,” the SP said.
Meanwhile Hameed Ur Rehman has not yet been arrested, despite the raids conducted in different areas.

Human rights’ activist Farzana Bari said, that the Afzal murder put her into frenzy and frustration because the young man was so kind, respected, dignified, brave, committed and educated and his fault was just that he was struggling against the so-called norms of the society where women were deprived from basic rights and were being killed in the name of honour.

“After the culprits of the Kohistan video scandal are given their sentences, no one else will dare kill another woman in the name of honour in the country,” she says. “I will carry on Afzal’s mission along with his younger brothers through the international and national rights commissions,” she says adding that she had already given a reservation note to the Supreme Court of being shown the wrong girls during her fact finding mission in 2012 just to prove that the women were alive.

“That note later helped us in reopening the case while Nadra had also verified on November, 28, 2016 that the fingerprints of the girls who were shown to me did not match with Bazigha and Sireen Jan’s finger prints in NADRA’s database.”

The activist says that her’s Bin Yasir’s and Gul Nazar’s lives are at risk.

“The police cannot keep them safe forever, as after a month or two the security provided to Kohistani’s family will be taken away, even though it is a high profile case and even though he requested for police security hundreds of times and was not provided but was eventually killed in the crowded area of Abbottabad city,” She said
Bari blamed the KP police for Afzal’s murder and now the Abottabad police was trying to cause distraction by punishing Faiz ur Rehman for injuring passersby.

She also urged the Pakistan Baitulmal and NGOs to support Afzal family and as much as they could support and provide safety to them, somewhere in the country because their lives were in danger now.

“I will appear in the senate along with Kohistani brothers and will inform the senate of the entire episode as well as request for complete security and financial support for their family,” she claims.

Other activists and politicians also agree with these ideas.

Veteran KP based politician Bushra Gohar, who was also among the commission members, had visited Pallas herself on behalf of the former ANP run provincial government.
“While Afzal Kohistani struggled for justice, getting justice in Pakistan is an uphill struggle,” she says. “Despite receiving death threats he didn’t stop him from his struggle for justice and this struggle should not end. Many precious lives have been lost since the Kohistan video scandal surfaced.”
She remembers meeting with Afzal just a few weeks before his murder.

“I had met him in Islamabad and he had said that he would continue with his struggle and sounded confident that he would get justice,” she said.
“He had been wanting to meet with the Inspector General of KP Police KP for the investigation of the jirga’s leader who had issued a fatwa. I had assured him that the current IGP had accompanied the Commission to Kohistan in 2012 was well aware of the case.” Before she could help arrange a meeting between Afzal and the IGP the worst had happened.

“As the provincial government has miserably failed to provide security to Afzal Kohistani, at least it should provide his family with the security and financial assistance they need,” she said.

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