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The lynching of a driver over his alleged illicit relations with a woman in Dera Shawal, a small hamlet which falls in the jurisdiction of Garhi Habibullah police station, Mansehra, on April 22 sparked a nationwide outrage.

Hazara division has a long history of reported and unreported honour killing cases.

The gruesome lynching – stoning and clubbing by an angry mob – in Dera Shawal came to light in recent days after its footage went viral on social media where the victim is stripped and put down on ground and a mob doesn’t allow police to shift him to hospital.

According to details, the villagers were perturbed over the frequent visits of a stranger to one of the 80 houses in the hamlet, apparently to meet a woman. Later, a jirga, held under a local elder, decided to intercept the stranger, identified as Abdul Sattar, when he came out after spending a night at one of the homes in early hours of April 22.

Three parties, as per jirga decree, intercepted Abdul Sattar and after shooting him, started hurling stones and beating him with sticks.

“I reached the scene soon after receiving information in the small hours and retrieved Sattar in critical condition, but he succumbed to injuries on way to hospital located 25 kilometers from the crime scene,” Mohammad Yasir, Garhi Habibullah police station SHO, narrated the incident.

Zareena Bibi, mother of Abdul Sattar, wants prompt dispensation of justice, saying though police had arrested the main suspects, she wanted to see them put to gallows.

“They chopped a part of my body – my son – in such a cruel way that no one can forget, but I want justice without any delay,” she said.

District police officer Ahsan Saifullah said that they had arrested three suspects and were in the process to bring back another one who managed to flee the country through Interpol.

He said that it was surprising to note that none of the family members of the woman was involved in the lynching anyway.

Dera Shawal is located near Garhi Habibullah, a small town where female social activists set up the first ever women only jirga last year after getting fed up with prejudiced decrees pronounced by local elders in the name of jirga.

“We have settled 62 cases, mostly related to honour and women, in a friendly environment, but jirgas of men are widely prejudiced in such cases and only favour the influential people and resultantly innocent women, and even men, are being killed on the pretext of honour,” said Ruqia Bibi, the member of women only jirga.

She said that women were never given a fair trial to defend themselves in male-dominated jirgas or any other such forums, ultimately leading to brutal killings. She said that when only men would sit in a jirga to decide the fate of a woman how it was possible for them to know exactly the sentiments of a woman or her ordeals.

“I think out-of-court settlement of honour-related issues at jirgas is compounding the already fragile situation in the remote areas of Hazara,” she said.

Hazara division, including Kohistan, Battagram, Torghar, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Haripur districts, has also witnessed such incidents earlier as five women were allegedly killed in Kohistan merely for clapping on dancing of two men in a marriage ceremony in recent years. The region also witnessed a woman marching stripped in streets by landlords in a village of Haripur in the name of honour.

In Abbottabad, a girl student was killed in cold blood after fastening her to a seat of wagon last year. The ratio of honour killings, according to social activists, is higher in Hazara than any other division in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Twenty-three people, most of them women, have fallen victim to honour killings in Hazara division last year with Kohistan on top with 17 cases, Abbottabad and Haripur one each and Mansehra and Battagram two each cases. However, Torghar, which is known for such incidents, is not part of these figures.

The unreported killings on the pretext of honour are said to be much higher compared to reported cases of honour-related killings or cases in the division, particularly in Kohistan and Torghar districts.

The ratio of honour killings in Konsh and Siren valleys of Mansehra is less than in other far-off valleys in the division, but the number of vani cases is said to be higher in these two valleys. In such cases, mostly minor girls are given to rival parties as vani to settle blood feuds and marriages of choice by couples.

“If Kohistan is excluded, Hazara is far behind other divisions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in murders related to honour,” claimed Saeed Wazir, the deputy inspector general of police, Hazara range.

He admitted that police had no mechanism except taking ulema on board to bring this evil practice to an end as awareness was important for this. “I am going to start this noble mission from Kohistan and soon an ulema conference would be organised, seeking their help in ending this social evil of killings in the name of honour,” he said.

He said that ulema were respected by local people in Hazara and when they would wage a jihad against this evil the lives of people in such largely fabricated cases could be protected.

“I am going to launch this mission from Kohistan which would gradually be spread to other districts of Hazara,” said Mr Wazir.

The ulema are also on the same page with police against the killing of women and men in the name of honour and termed this practice contrary to Islamic injunctions.

Maulana Qudratullah Qadir, a pray leader at the central mosque here, said that sensitising people about Islamic teachings might pave the way for bringing down the current ratio of honour killing cases.

He said that delay in justice and so-called jirgas were one of the major reasons for unchecked honour-related cases. He said that in many cases men and women were killed to settle enmities.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2017