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KP police arrest suspect in Afzal Kohistani's murder

Updated March 08, 2019

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Afzal Kohistani (right) is pictured on January 27, 2019, describing his fears to journalists that he might be killed on a jirga's orders for "defaming" the people of Kohistan. — Photo by Umar Bacha
Afzal Kohistani (right) is pictured on January 27, 2019, describing his fears to journalists that he might be killed on a jirga's orders for "defaming" the people of Kohistan. — Photo by Umar Bacha

The Khyber Pakthunkhwa Police on Friday arrested a man from Palas who is suspected to be involved in the killing of Afzal Kohistani — the man responsible for exposing the Kohistan video scandal.

Kohistani was shot dead on Wednesday evening in the densely populated area of Sarban Chowk at around 8:10pm by unidentified gunmen who managed to flee afterwards.

According to witnesses, Afzal was shot multiple times and died on the spot, while three passersby were also injured.

Abbottabad District Police Officer (DPO) Abbas Majeed Marwat confirmed the arrest, saying that the suspect was taken into custody during a raid in the Palas district of Kohistan.

"A police party raided a house in the far flung region of Palas and arrested a man identified as Masoom Ali," Abbas Marwat told DawnNewsTV.

He said that the police had arrested the man after an initial investigation was carried out in the Afzal Kohistani murder. Marwat also confirmed that a weapon has been recovered from the suspect's possession.

According to Marwat, the accused will be presented before a judicial magistrate so that his physical remand can be obtained.

Police have already arrested Kohistani's nephew, Faizur Rehman, in connection to the murder after he was nominated in the FIR.

The case against Rehman has been registered under Section 302 (punishment of qatl-i-amd) and 307 (cases in which qisas for qatl-i-amd shall not be enforced) of the Pakistan Penal Code. However, no case was registered against the unidentified persons who had reportedly shot Afzal, according to initial reports.

This development had infuriated Afzal's family, who objected to the registration of the case against Rehman and staged a protest outside Abbottabad's Cantt police station.

They claimed that the accused had accompanied his uncle for his protection as he had been constantly receiving death threats. The two had come to Abbottabad to meet Afzal's lawyer.

The family demanded Rehman's release, the holding of a judicial inquiry and the provision of protection for the lives of Afzal's heirs: his wife and five children.

Today, the DPO told DawnNewsTV that Rahman was presented before the judicial magistrate to record his statement.

The scandal

The Kohistan video scandal made headlines in 2012 when five girls were killed by members of their tribe after a mobile phone video of them at a wedding in a remote village in Kohistan emerged on social media.

The video showed the five females singing and clapping along as two male family members danced. The mixed gathering had taken place in a village located in an extremely conservative part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In the eyes of the locals, the youngsters had violated tribal norms and brought dishonour upon them.

After the video was leaked, a jirga was held by the girls’ tribe which decreed the killing of the girls and the boys under ‘riwaj’ (a tribal custom).

Afzal, the brother of one of the boys in the video, was the one who made the news public, alleging that the girls had been killed on May 30, 2012, on the orders of a cleric who led a 40-50 member tribal jirga. Officials in the area, however, had claimed that the murders did not take place and the girls were alive.

Former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary had taken a suo motu notice of the case on June 7, 2012, and constituted a fact-finding mission on July 17 the same year to investigate the case.

The commission went to Kohistan and investigated the matter, producing a report on July 20, 2017, which stated that the girls were alive. Rights activist Farzana Bari, also part of the commission, had expressed doubts at the time that the girls produced before the commission were not the same and some other burqa-clad and veiled girls were, in fact, presented.

In the ensuing feud, three of Afzal's brothers named Shah Faisal, Sher Wali, and Rafiuddin were killed inside their home on January 3, 2013, by the girls' tribesmen and a year earlier, a child was also killed due to the burning of Afzal's home.

On July 31, 2018, a new case was registered at Palas police station on the Supreme Court's orders.

Four suspects namely Umar Khan, Saber, Mohammad Sarfraz and Saeed were arrested. Upon interrogation, the suspects confessed to killing three of the girls — Begum Jan, Sireen Jan and Bazeega — by firing, saying they had disposed of the bodies in Nala Chorh.

Afzal had been of the firm view that the suspects were lying. “They killed all five girls by severe torture and are not identifying graves as it will reveal their brutality,” he had said at the time.