The surviving family members of Afzal Kohistani — the man who exposed the 2012 Kohistan video scandal and was shot dead earlier this month after years of fighting the menace of 'honour' killings — have demanded of the authorities to ensure their security and means of livelihood.
And while Afzal's death has left his family members in more peril than before, that has not shaken their resolve to continue his work.
Speaking to Dawn, the two brothers of Afzal — who were featured in the video that led to the honour killings of five women — said Afzal had been the sole breadwinner of their family. With him gone, the future of 18 orphans and widows whom he was looking after is in jeopardy.
"We are scared. After Afzal was killed, our rivals threatened us and told us to prepare ourselves, saying 'we are next'," said Gul Nazar, one of the two brothers.
"They want to remove all traces of our family from here."
"All other victims died silently, it was only Afzal that unmasked [the perpetrators] in national and international media," he added.
Nazar said their fear has been compounded because their rivals are much more influential than his own family. "They own around 250 houses, while we own just four in the Gadar village of Pallas," he said.
“Afzal was fighting for the slain girls, his own brothers and for our security in the Pakistani courts," said Bin Yasir, the second of Afzal's surviving brothers.
"We never went out of the house since we were first accused in the case. Later, we were jailed for six months and bailed out. Since then, we have spent the last seven years in stress and fear. We and our families have been confined to living like refugees in the hilly area of Battagram district,” he added. Afzal's death had forced Bin Yasir to take the risk of appearing before media for the first time.
He explained that the family was currently residing with a local elder as refugees. "We can never go out for any sort of work or hold a job to earn for 18 orphans and the widows of our brothers," he said.
"Neither the media, nor any government officials have visited us as yet. Afzal was the only one in contact with all of them. Now we are confused about what to do and how to go to courts for further hearings in the cases."
Bin Yasir said that while he is prepared to appear in all ongoing cases being heard in the Supreme Court, the high court and the district court, he is concerned for his personal safety as well as that of his family.
"We demand that our land and houses which have been occupied by our rivals are returned to us. The rivals intend to distribute hundreds of kanals of [our] land amongst the Azad Khel tribe, who [allegedly] contributed to the killings," said Gul Shahzada, an elder brother of Afzal.
He urged the nearby tribes of Kolai and other areas to intervene and hold a jirga to decree that further killings of their family members should be stopped and they should be allowed to earn a livelihood for themselves.
He also appealed to the government to ensure security for the family, at home and during court visits, "because I do not want further serial killing of my brothers".
Bin Yasir vowed to continue Afzal's fight through the judicial system.
"It was his [Afzal's] dream to end the so-called honour killings in Kohistan. He wished to attain justice for his brothers and the slain girls,” he said.
He demanded that a judicial commission be formed to probe Afzal’s killing and "how he was killed so close to the Cantt police station, in a crowded bus stand".
As of Monday, Allai tehsil Sub-divisional Police Officer Ghulam Muhammad said they have provided security to one of Afzal’s brothers as he went to the high court in Abbottabad for an appearance in the video scandal case on behalf of Afzal.
The SDPO further said that they had been directed by the regional police officer of Hazara division to provide the family security in the premises of all respective police stations.