Pak 'jirga' sentences 6 to death for attending mixed gathering

Pak 'jirga' sentences 6 to death for attending mixed gathering

 A tribal 'jirga' or council in a remote area of northern Pakistan has condemned four women and two men to death for "staining the honour" of their families by singing and dancing at a wedding, according to a media report today.

The men and women from Hazara division in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa province were allegedly caught on videotape singing and dancing at a wedding in violation of the tribal custom of gender segregation, The Express Tribune reported.

The women, who are all married, were called from the homes of their in-laws and locked up in a room in Seertaiy village of Kohistan district.

The men managed to flee before the jirga could act against them. The jirga has tasked 40 young men to kill the men and women.

"A tribal jirga has declared them Ghul (fornicators). And they might be killed any time," said Muhammad Afzal, the elder brother of two men condemned to death.

Afzal said the women allegedly sang 'mahiyas' or folk songs at the wedding and danced in the presence of 'na-mehram' or those who one can marry in Islam.

The wedding took place two months ago in Bando Baidar village. Some guest filmed the women and men singing and dancing with a mobile phone. The amateur video was later sent to the women's relatives, the report said.

The tribe to which the women belong was angered by the video. It convened a jirga of elders a month ago and they found the women and men guilty of violating tribal and Islamic norms by singing and dancing together.

"The jirga did not bother to hear the accused and condemned them to death," Afzal said.
The tribe has raised a fund of Rs 400,000 for litigation that may ensue from the killing of the men and women.

According to the jirga's verdict, the men have to be shot dead first. The women, two of whom have children, are locked up in a room in Seertaiy village.

"They are tied with ropes. They are being starved," said Afzal.

The local police chief confirmed that the jirga had condemned the six people to death.
"I've spoken to the tribal elders and I'll utilise all resources available to stop these executions," said Abdul Majeed Afridi, the district police chief.

Afridi said he had sent a police party to Seertaiy to recover the women.Afzal voiced doubts about the authenticity of the video and accused his foes of forging it to humiliate his family.

"Since our family is affluent and owns vast acres of forestland, orchards and agriculture farms in Bando Baidar village, they (our rivals) hatched a plot to deprive us of our property," he claimed.

He said the video did not show his brothers and the women dancing together.
Afridi, who claims to have seen the video, agreed with Afzal. He said the women were seen singing folk songs and clapping their hands in a room. On the other hand, the clip showing the men has a different background.

Afzal works as a clerk at the office of Abdul Saboor Usmani, a lawyer who practices criminal law at the Abbottabad Registry of the Peshawar High Court.

Usmani called the jirga's decision a blatant violation of human rights. He added the women were being mentally and physically tormented without having committed any crime.

Afzal said the jirga had no right to condemn somebody to death.

"Still, if they believe my brothers have broken some law, let a court of law decide the matter," he said.

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