Parents of young woman stoned to death await justice

Published November 10, 2014
Government asked to take steps to curb alternate systems of justice such as the local jirga that passes inhuman judgments against women for issues related to family and honour..  - AFP/file
Government asked to take steps to curb alternate systems of justice such as the local jirga that passes inhuman judgments against women for issues related to family and honour.. - AFP/file

An old man, Zar Taj, was seen roaming around the premises of the Peshawar High Court a few days ago and requesting every passer-by to help him. The man is father of a young woman who was stoned to death over three years ago allegedly by her husband and around a dozen of his accomplices in the jurisdiction of Rustam police station in Mardan.

The poor man was saying that they had no money to hire a counsel for appearance in a bail petition moved by one of the accused persons, Hazrat Said, stated to be brother-in-law of the victim, Ms Shazia. The accused was arrested after remaining absconder for around three years. Four accused persons in the case, including the victim’s husband Mohammad Saeed, had already been acquitted by the trial court last year in Mardan for lack of evidence.

Hazrat Said’s bail petition was earlier dismissed by an additional district and sessions judge in Mardan following which he moved PHC seeking his release on bail on the ground of consistency as four accused had already been set free.

When advocate high court Khyal Mohammad Mohmand heard the hue and cry of the old man he approached and assured him that he would contest the petition pro bono. A single bench of the court comprising Justice Ms Mussarat Hilali heard the petition on Nov 7 and dismissed it.

Mr Mohmand contended that though four of the accused were acquitted by the court, the case against the present petitioner was strong as he had been an absconder. He argued that the trial against the petitioner had commenced in Feb 2014 and he should not be granted the concession of bail.

It was in June 2011 when the killing of Shazia, 23, had hit the headlines. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Commission on the Status of Woman (PCSW) had condemned the incident and its then chairperson Zubaida Khatoon had called upon the authorities to ensure that the perpetrators were handed down an exemplary punishment.

She had also asked the government to take steps to curb alternate systems of justice such as the local jirga that passes inhuman judgments against women for issues related to family and honour.

However, after a few days of the occurrence the human rights organisations and the PCSW went into slumber and the poor parents of the victim were left at the mercy of criminal justice system. As the family had no resources to hire a private counsel they had to rely on the public prosecutor. Last year, four of the accused persons, including Saeed, were acquitted by a trial court in Mardan due to lack of evidence whereas the remaining eight accused were declared proclaimed offenders. According to facts of the case, the victim was taken to nearby hills by the accused and stoned to death. Her mother, Noor Jehan, and a minor sister, Kashmala, were accompanying her, but they somehow saved own lives.

Apparently, Shazia was killed for honour as she had left residence of her husband and was residing with her parents in Swat. She had entered into love marriage with the accused, Mohammad Saeed, in Nov 2010.

Investigations had revealed that the accused, Saeed, was also suspected of killing his brother as he was suspecting him of having relations with the victim. In that occurrence the victim had also received injuries and she started residing with her parents at Barikot in Swat.

Ms Noor Jehan was the complainant in the case registered at Rustam police station.

She alleged that they were asked by Saeed to visit the village as he wanted to make rapprochement with the victim.

However, she claimed that when they reached the village Saeed along with his accomplices, including his brother, forcibly took them to nearby hills and started pelting stones on Shazia which resulted in her death.

According to the postmortem report, her death was caused because of head injuries.

The police had recovered the body of the victim with her blood stained sandals lying nearby. The place of occurrence, village Bairoch, is backward and its population is known for violence.

This case clearly shows the unavailability of support mechanisms to the families as well as to victims falling prey to violence.

“When the state institutions set up for providing assistance to victims and their families in such cases fail to perform their duty it often results in rise in heinous crimes, including honour-related offences,” said an advocate of the Supreme Court Shahnawaz Khan.

He said that the state should realise its responsibility and help the families in distress so that the perpetrators could be awarded punishment.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2014

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