ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Kohistan sessions judge to visit the area and verify whether five girls involved in the 2010 video scandal were alive or murdered.

The sessions judge will have to furnish a report to the Supreme Court within two weeks after visiting Sertay, Pallas, a village in Kohistan district, along with local district police officers and a senior woman police officer.

The orders were issued by a two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal, which had taken up the matter on an application of Dr Farzana Bari, director of the gender studies department, Quaid-i-Azam University. Dr Bari is also a social activist.

Earlier, Dr Bari was made part of a three-member commission who visited Kohistan in 2012 to investigate allegations of murder of the girls shown clapping in a mobile phone video. District and Sessions Judge Muneera Abbasi headed that commission which also included then MNA Bushra Gohar.

In her fresh statement, Dr Bari sought an order from the Supreme Court for the appearance of the girls, who were shown to the commission, to appear before the court in-camera and experts be called for verifying their identity.

The bench is seized with the matter, initiated on a suo motu by former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry when the controversy surfaced about the alleged killing of the five girls on the orders of a tribal jirga in Kohistan for dancing with boys at a wedding ceremony in 2012.

In its Thursday’s order, the court said that in the beginning it was the desire of the court to dispatch a senior woman police officer to visit the area but on account of the objection raised by Dr Bari, the court had now decided to send the sessions judge to investigate the matter.

The court also made it clear that being a constitutional court, it was not its job to call the girls in-camera and examine their evidence.

But the order did not please Dr Bari who told reporters outside courtroom No 4 after the hearing that she was disappointed and did not expect any justice in the case.

On the other hand, a prayer leader from the area, Maulana Muhammad Javed Azad, alleged that all apprehensions being highlighted by western NGOs would ultimately be proved wrong.

On Thursday Khyber Pakh­tunkhwa Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai submitted an eight-page report asserting that the allegations made by Muhammad Afzal, who had highlighted the scandal and alleged that the girls had been killed, was incorrect and the report earlier submitted by the commission was true.

The law officer also assured the court that the police had made hectic efforts to find facts and had left no stone unturned in this regard. In addition, petitioner Afzal was a permanent resident of village Gaddar, Palas, but he left his native village permanently along with his family members and at present was residing in village Behari, Allai.

When asked to provide evidence in support of his version, Afzal was unable to produce any evidence except his own verbal allegations, the report said.

On Thursday, Habibur Rehman, the uncle of one of the girls, assured the court that all the girls were alive and staying with their family members.

Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Swati, representing Mr Rehman, told the court that over the last four years no evidence had ever come to surface to establish what Dr Bari or Afzal was claiming.

Advocate Azhar Rashid, appearing on behalf of Afzal, told the court that three of his brothers had been killed and his entire family displaced.

In her statement, Dr Bari recalled that two girls were produced before the commission when it visited the area to investigate that no girl had been murdered and all were alive.

“I had serious doubts about the two girls produced before the commission resembling the girls appearing in the video,” the statement explained, but other members of the commission did not agree as a result of which, Dr Bari said, she had appended her dissenting note with the report of the commission demanding that the Supreme Court involve Nadra for professional help for matching the video images of the girls with photographs which she had taken and provided to the court.

Dr Bari later petitioned the Supreme Court for reopening of the case.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2016

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