ISLAMABAD: In a damning report submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday, a commission headed by the district and sessions judge for Kohistan, Shoaib Khan, expressed fears that the five girls involved in a 2010 video scandal might not be alive.
“The view taken and expressed... is the outcome of human observations, not free from error, maybe right or wrong, and can lead to an inference that either the girls are not alive or they have fled away and gone into missing being well aware of [the] consequences of traditional approach of their elders in such cases,” the report said.
The girls in question were Ms Amina, daughter of Sarfaraz, Ms Begum Jan d/o Mubeen, Ms Siran Jan d/o Saeer, Ms Bazeega, wife of Idrees, and Ms Shaheen w/o Habibullah.
On Nov 10, a two-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan had ordered the district and sessions judge to visit Sartay, Pallas — a village in Kohistan district — along with the local district police officers and a senior woman police officer to find out if the girls were still alive.
The directions had been issued by the court on an application filed by Dr Farzana Bari, a human rights activist and director of the gender studies department of Quaid-i-Azam University.
Dr Bari was part of a three-member commission that had visited Kohistan back in 2012 to probe into the allegations of murder of the girls shown clapping in a video clip.
In her fresh statement, Dr Bari had sought a direction for production of the girls before the court in-camera and for verification of their identity by experts.
The report submitted to the court said that any definite answers about the girls being alive required an exhaustive inquiry to be carried out by government agencies and through forensic means.
The commission, however, regretted that two of the girls produced before its members were not the girls allegedly visible in the video clip.
“It would not be unsafe to conclude and presume that other girls produced before us were also not [the] girls visible in the video scandal,” the report said.
“Now the question arises, whether owing to their non-production before us, would it be safe to hold them dead? Keeping in view the history of the case, failure of the elders in producing the actual girls, especially Siran Jan and Bazeega, before us, the reply [to] the query would be certainly in positive [sic]. But contrary to this conclusion, all the elders of the area were unanimous that the girls were alive,” the report added.
The report said the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) was contacted for furnishing family trees of the girls’ fathers. Luckily, it was discovered that Siran Jan and Bazeega got their identity cards issued in 2010 when the incident happened.
The commission tried to convince the local elders to allow the girls to be photographed but they did not agree on the pretext that the girls had already “faced defamation” and any fresh pictures could create more problems for them.
“Keeping in view the sensitivity of the people, overall atmosphere and gravity of the situation, it was not deemed suitable to insist on requirement of pictures,” the report said.
The commission said that one of the girls, Amina, was asked about burn marks on her thumbs. She replied that she had been injured while doing some kitchen work. “[T]his does not appeal to reason because [of] burning of two thumbs at a time without any damage to the index or other fingers...,” the report said.
Another girl, Siran Jan, and her father were unable to tell her age. “By appearance she was not more than 16/17 years and in the year 2010 she must be 9/10 years. On the contrary, as per Nadra record her date of birth was Feb 2, 1993 — contradictory to her appearance. Video snap of this girl was not clear therefore cannot be compared with her photo.
“However, the third girl, Begum Jan, resembled the video picture but she too was looking about 16/17 years [old] with no mole marks on her upper lip as appearing in her photo shoot. When asked about the mark, she said it was made with [the help of] antimony/kajal,” said the report.
“The fourth girl, Bazeega, also resembled the photo and her apparent age was also compatible with her age as appearing in the photo.
“The last girl, Shaheen, and alleged facilitator of the video, disclosed her age as 13 years but her elders said it was 16 years.”
The report said that despite clear directions, the husbands of the girls, except for Shaheen’s, were not produced before the commission. “[About] their absence, elders of the girls advanced lame excuses, except for the husband of Siran Jan, who is reportedly in jail.”
The commission noted that after marriage, girls routinely went through a number of changes but its members noticed no such effects on the girls’ faces.
Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2016