Pak jirga orders teenage girl be ‘set ablaze for helping friend elope’

PESHAWAR / ABBOTABAD: A woman was drugged, strangled and then her body set ablaze because she helped her friend elope, police said Thursday, announcing the arrest of 14 people in a twist on the grim practice of “honour killings”.

Ambreen, believed to be around 20 years old, was killed then burned in a Suzuki van on the orders of the village jirga (council) in Makol on April 29, District Police Officer Khurram Rasheed told AFP.

“Police have arrested 13 members of the jirga who ordered the murder of the girl,” Rasheed said. The victim’s mother was also arrested, he said, because she supported the jirga’s decision.

The 14 are due to appear in a local anti-terrorism court Thursday on murder and terrorism charges, he said.

“Police have traced the accused through mobile data and they were picked up one after another. The accused confessed during the investigation that a few months back Saima, a school girl from the same village and tribe, eloped with her boyfriend and Ambreen facilitated their frequent meetings and later their elopement,” the DPO said.

The police officer while sharing the statements of accused said: “In order to discuss the elopement of Saima, a village jirga was convened at the house of Naseer Ahmed on April 28 that was headed by Pervez, the village council nazim and the master mind of the girl burning case.”

The owner of the van was also a member of the jirga. His van was burned because the eloping woman — who is believed to be safely in hiding — travelled in it when she ran away.

The jirga members, who all are known for their bad characters, according to the DPO, condemned the role of Ambreen and Naseer and later after long deliberations, decided that punishment of elopement of Saima and facilitation should be so severe that no girl could ever dare to run away in future.

“The Jirga members issued a decree that Ambreen and Naseer must face punishment for bringing dishonour to the tribe. Later, the accused first took the girl to an abandoned house near the village’s mosque where they first sedated her with some medicines before strangling her to death. Following her death the victim’s body was tied to the rear seat of Naseer’s van and set on fire.”

Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year on the pretext of defending family “honour”, but it is rare to hear of those who facilitate elopements being killed as well.

Pakistan amended its criminal code in 2005 to prevent men who kill female relatives escaping punishment by pardoning themselves as an “heir” of the victim.

But it is left to a judge’s discretion to decide whether to impose a prison sentence when other relatives of the victim forgive the killer — a loophole which critics say remains exploited.

“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” — a film telling the story of a rare survivor of an attempted honour killing — won the Academy Award for best documentary short in February.

Amid publicity for the film, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to eradicate the “evil” of honour killings but no fresh legislation has been tabled since then.


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