In a shocking incident that unfolded in the Kolai-Palas district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohistan, a harrowing case of honour killing was reported on November 26. The victim, an 18-year-old girl, fell prey to this abhorrent practice at the hands of her own family members, following the directives of a local jirga (council of elders) in Barsharyal village, located 150 kilometres northwest of Mansehra, Pakistan.
The tragic episode stemmed from a video that circulated on social media, featuring the victim and another girl dancing with boys. District Police Officer (DPO) Mukhtiar Tanoli disclosed that the video and two images gained popularity on social media on November 22. Subsequently, on November 24, the victim’s father and uncle, acting on the orders of the local jirga, committed the heinous act.
Remarkably, the police intervened just in time to save the second girl, who was brought before the court to provide a statement. She expressed no fear for her life from her family and opted to stay with them rather than being relocated to Dar-ul-Aman (shelter homes for women). Meanwhile, the boys involved in the video went into hiding to escape potential harm.
DPO Mukhtiar Tanoli highlighted that the viral images were “clearly edited.” The victim’s body was transferred to a nearby medical facility for necessary legal and medical procedures before being handed over to her family.
A First Information Report (FIR) concerning the murder was filed by the Station House Officer (SHO) of the Palas police station, invoking sections 302/311 and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). While raids were underway to apprehend additional suspects, one had already been arrested. The police asserted that no directives were issued by a local jirga, emphasising that the family members acted independently in committing the crime.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Palas, Masood Khan, asserted, “We have launched an investigation to trace those who killed the girl and who either advised or convened a jirga and sentenced her to death.” He emphasised that no one was above the law, and anyone found guilty would face the consequences.
Responding to the gravity of the incident, the Chief Minister instructed the Additional Home Secretary to initiate an investigation and produce a comprehensive report. Moreover, approval was granted to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety and protection of the second girl involved.
This distressing incident unfolded more than a decade after a notorious case that shook the nation in 2011. A video of five women dancing at a family function went viral, leading to their murder based on a jirga decree. Men and women are often declared guilty and subjected to violence by the jirga in honor killings. In a tragic turn of events, three brothers of the man in the video were also later murdered. The case gained prominence in 2012 when Afzal Kohistani, another brother, brought it to light and was subsequently shot dead in 2019 after receiving serious threats to his life. The Supreme Court, taking suo motu notice in 2013, imposed a life term on the guilty, highlighting the enduring and deeply rooted nature of the issue.