ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to dispatch a team to verify the record and antecedents of two of the five girls involved in the 2010 Kohistan video scandal who possessed computerised national identity cards (CNICs).
A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan was about to order that the girls be produced before it, but realised that nobody would be able to correctly identify them, even if they were produced.
The court had taken up a complaint on an application filed by activist and academic Dr Farzana Bari, who heads the Gender Studies department at the Quaid-i-Azam University.
Earlier, Dr Bari was made part of a three-member commission that visited Kohistan in 2012 to inquire into the allegations that the girls shown clapping in a mobile video had been murdered. District and Sessions Judge Muneera Abbasi headed the commission, which also consisted of then MNA Bushra Gohar.
In her fresh statement, Dr Bari sought directions for the in-camera production of the girls who had been brought before the commission, and that experts should be called to verify their identity.
The matter was initiated suo motu by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, when the controversy surfaced. It was alleged that five girls, who were seen dancing with boys during a wedding ceremony, were killed on the orders of a tribal jirga in Kohistan.
The girls in question were Amina, Begum Jan, Siran Jan, Bazeega and Shaheen. Of them, Siran Jan and Bazeega records can be verified by Nadra.
Justice Maqbool Baqar pointed out that the report also mentioned that neither of the two girls looked married, nor did their husbands ever appeared before the commission.
Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Swati, representing locals of the area, opposed the belief that the girls had been killed, adding that over the last four years, not a single shred of evidence had been produced to establish Dr Bari’s claim.
On Nov 10, 2016 the Supreme Court had ordered the Kohistan 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 investigate whether the girls have been killed or not.
Later, on Dec 1, 2016, Kohistan District and Sessions Judge Shoaib Khan expressed the fear that the five girls involved in the 2010 video scandal might have not be alive.
The report had stated: “The question arises whether owing to the non-production of the two girls before the commission, would it be safe to hold them dead? Keeping in view the history of the case, failures of the elders in producing the actual girls especially Siran Jan and Bazeega before us, the reply of the query would be certainly in positive. But contrary to this conclusion, all the elders of the area were unanimous that the girls were alive.”
The report had also clarified that “the view taken and expressed …was the outcome of human observations, not free from error, may be right or wrong and can lead to an inference that either the girls are not alive or they had fled away and gone into missing being well aware of consequences of traditional approach of their elders in such like cases.”
On Thursday, however, Justice Khan declared the report “eye-wash and window-dressing” observing that the entire controversy would die down if the girls appeared and identified themselves.
The court also expressed its dismay over the hesitation and reluctance being shown by locals in producing the girls before the court.
Dr Bari also regretted that not a single NGO had stood beside her, adding that threats had also been hurled against her and Afzal Kohistani, who had unearthed the scandal.
The court reserved further proceedings until April 20, with an observation that without the production of the girls, it would not be possible to ascertain whether they were alive or dead.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017