Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan (Kohistan Video Case Follow-Up)

“Publishing Date: Dec 3, 2013″

By Haseeb Khawaja

(Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker by Profession & Social Worker by Nature)

Islamabad, Pakistan.

haseebdigital@yahoo.com

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Two brothers Gul Nazar aged about 23 year and Bin Nasir aged about 22 year of Saleh Khel tribein Gadar village of Union Council, Khota Koat (which is in tehsil Palas of District Kohistan) had a private gathering in a hut with five girls (namely Sareen Jan aged about 20 year, Bagum Jan aged about 22 year, Amina aged about 23 year, Bazigha aged about 25 year and Shaheen aged about 12 year) of Azad Khail tribe in the last month of year 2010. Keeping their traditions and civilization these four girls out of five sang the song with clapping in their native language nicely at the corner of hut, whereas Gul Nazar danced and his brother Bin Nasir recorded this event of about 5 minutes length by his mobile. And after sometime, this gathering was dismissed. Whereas Shaheen was not present when video was recorded. Then, as usual, both of these brothers went to Mansehra, (Both of the brothers had been living in Mansehra with their elder brother Afzal Kohistani since 2008.

Before I may proceed further, want to make one clarification that ordinary people and media is perceiving this video as a wedding ceremony video from the day first and their logic was as such singing and dance parties are usually organized on wedding ceremonies. But as far as I am concerned, The environment of the place where the video was recorded does not depict as a wedding like situation. Because how could only be six people there for celebrating such wedding ceremony? And according to the area’s customs and traditions there should have been huge crowd of children and old people too, on the ceremony. And secondly, according to regional customs and traditions it is impermissible for the girls and boys of two different tribes (in an any wedding ceremony) get together in solitude in like way. And thirdly, It could not be considered a wedding as it is apparent from the faces and dresses which are looking ordinary. And moreover, the girls did not do any make-up. According to me it is a video of a private gathering in a hut. And forthly, when Doctor Farzana Bari (Director, Gender Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University & Human Rights Activist) went along with them as a member of Fact Finding Commission, on return, she also gave the similar comments that it’s not the video of any wedding ceremony but the girls had gone to some hut and the video was recorded there.

Now, let’s proceed further. In probably March 2012, almost after one and quarter year of this private meeting held, the mobile video passed from mobile to mobile and spread in the whole region, due to negligence of those video-boys (two brothers, one was recording and the other was dancing), (according to me, they themselves did not share the video because sharing video was equivalent to inviting their death, as per the customs and traditions of their area). An issue had been created due to the video which was spread in the whole area (because according to the customs and traditions of this area, free intermingling of boys and girls of different tribes was not considered legitimate). So, according to sources, initially, the elders of girls locked them up in a room, then conducted a Jirga (Local Council) in which Molana Javed who belong to the tribe of girls, gave verdict to kill, not only 5 girls and 2 boys but the whole family of the boys (reason behind the verdict of killing of these video-boys along with their whole family was that the family of the girls was dishonored due to the video that was shared in the entire area, that’s why the whole family of the video-boys should be killed).

While there could be seen only four girls in the video and the fifth girl named Shaheen (which was not in the video), she was also accused and also given verdict to be killed as she maybe helped the girls and boys to get together. According to sources, the girls were kept in prison for about one month before execution and they were seriously tortured in a number of ways, sometimes, they used to throw boiling water at them and sometimes, embers whereas both of the brothers (who appear in the video) disappeared from the area due to the fear of execution after the verdict of Jirga. And the elder brother of the video-boys approached the local administration for help, after the verdict. But according to Afzal Kohistani, none of them had helped them. Then, after some period of time (One of the neighbour of the executed girls who told me on the condition not to reveal his identity for security purposes, told me that) the girls had been butchered mercilessly in Achar village (near village Seertay) in the night between 30–05–2012 and 31–05–2012 at 2 am, then they were buried after their funeral prayer and then their dead bodies were exhumed and were transferred to some anonymous location. In the meanwhile, the news about this event started to appear in media. Afterward, the Jirga refused to confess and stated that neither the Jirga was assembled nor the girls were murdered, then Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu notice on the news published in the newspapers and ordered to bring the girls and boys before the court of law, then both of the video-boys appeared in the court before Chief Justice on 04–06–2012 and recorded the statement that the girls had been murdered.

In this regard, I have talked one of the boys, who are in the video clip, named, Bin Nasir. Whatever he revealed to me in detail, it’s summery in nutshell is, “The police threatened us and forced us to say that the girls were alive (so that our area would not be defamed) when Chief Justice would ask you, before we were brought to court to record our statements and when we came out of court, the police tortured us brutally for why we didn’t give statement according to their wish”.

And when girls were not brought before the court from 04–06–2012 to 07–06–2012 and the main excuse told was that the girls could not come here out of their area due to restrictions of their area’s customs and traditions, then, a Fact Finding Commission was established and sent to Kohistan on 17–06–2012 in a helicopter to investigate about the girls. This commission could manage to talk to only two girls, Bagum Jan and Sereen Jan.

And when commission returned, all the members of commission confirmed that the girls are alive except Doctor Farzana Bari who was doubtful and she had also submitted a contrary note along with the report of Fact Finding Commission to Supreme Court, in which she wrote in detail that the identity of the girls whom she had seen as well as met there, is doubtful means she could not say with 100% surety that the girls are same as shown in the video.

In addition, she also wrote in her contrary note that the police and civil administration did not handle the matter seriously during investigation.

And there were not included such experts in the Fact Finding Commission who could confirm the identity in the light of their experience and by matching the faces of girls in video and the girls shown to them and could give the expert opinion.

Moreover, she also wrote that we were not provided independent interpreters even I requested them again and again. We had to get help from the relatives of the murdered girls as interpreters.

She also gave a suggestion to get technical support from NADRA for their verification of the pictures of girls taken from video and the pictures we captured at the time of commission.

Moreover, as a researcher Doctor Farzana Bari also wrote in her contrary note that if you ask about death verdict was issued or not, in the presence of 500 people who were present there, then obviously, none of them will dare to speak the truth (due to fear, and Doctor Farzana Bari also told me that the person who was accused for death verdict, was also present there).

Doctor Farzana Bari also suggested for the further investigation at this aspect of the case too.

At the end, she also wrote that the presence of Commissioner, D.I.G., D.P.O. and D.C.O., etc was not suitable to do an independent inquiry when Fact Finding Commission went there to investigate the matter on that occasion.

In spite of all this, Chief Justice (while hearing) closed the case on 20–06–2012, with the verdict that we don’t have any solid reason to disagree with (the other members of) commission, though, Doctor Farzana Bari has shown some reservations regarding on Fact Finding Commission’s report, we may reopen the case if she finds any further solid evidence regarding the case.

I also have some reservations in addition to Doctor Farzana Bari because this commission had shown the following negligence during its investigation there:

* The Fact Finding Commission had chosen the Interpreters (to talk to the people of that area) among the same people who were relatives of girls (When the commission went there to investigate) whowere accused of killing the girls. It was not a reliable decision.

* Then commission also took the finger prints and pictures of the girls and also made video but later on these were not verified from NADRA and the case was closed without verification, whereas Doctor Farzana Bari suggested for verification by the experts when she gave pictures and videos to the Supreme Court but Supreme Court had shown lack of interest. While later on Katharine Houreld, a foreigner correspondent of an international news agency got the details of ID Cards of three girls out of four who had been seen in the video, after her deep research and later on got secretly verification of these ID Cards from NADRA (and then sent the details to the Supreme Court also but she did not get any response even contacting the Supreme Court a number of times and this was told to me by Katharine Houreld personally). The names and ID Card numbers of the girls are as follows;

1. Sereen Jan (13402–66887995–2)

2. Bazigha (13402–7271838–0)

3. Amina (13402–2643848–6)

While the record of forth girl, Bagum Jan could not be found and the ID Card of fifth girl, Shaheen was not made because her age was only 12.

If Supreme Court reopens the case to match the finger prints and the pictures of girls captured during the Fact Finding Commission’s visit with those ID Cards which were provided to Supreme Court by Katharine Houreld, then in this way, the reality could be certainly brought out that whether the girls were the same to whom the commission met or they were some others (but unfortunately, it could not happen).

Regarding the same issue, when I talked to the Chairman of NADRA Tariq Malik, he told me that NADRA can help us in this matter in two ways, means, they can provide us the ID Card numbers and other related details to us if the finger prints are provided to them. And if ID Card numbers are given to them, then they can provide us the name, picture and address of the candidates but alas! Chief Justice did not utilize the services of NADRA before closing the case.

According to the sources, it is also revealed that two girls to whom the commission met, their reality is something else, Zainab w/o Awal Khan was presented before commission as Bagum Jan d/o Abdul Mubeen whereas Bagum Jan was the sister of Awal Khan, the sister was substituted by his wife. Whereas the other girl Kharo d/o Abdul Mubeen was presented as Sareen Jan, Kharo is the daughter of Sareen’s maternal uncle.

* Moreover, the members of the commission asked the girls whom they met there, to see the pictures taken from video and identify themselves, i.e., to find out their own pictures from the available pictures.

It does not make any sense, to identify the girls in this way was even an easy task even for their other relatives in the same area. Hence, the girls could not be identified properly by the method used by the commission members, whether these girls were real or some else.

* The commission did not itself interrogate the different people of the area separately in loneliness, rather, inquired them in the presence of a crowd, in this fashion, there are least chances of getting the appropriate answers. And if the commission intended, then could inquire them by calling one by one in solitude from the crowd.

* The commission did not talk to the girls separately, actually, the family members of the girls were also present there when commission was inquiring them. In such situation, there is not suitable environment for girls to speak freely. If commission intended, they could call the girls separately to inquire and in this way, the family would not do objection too because the commission included female members who could inquire the girls privately.

* Modern medical technology could also be used to expose the reality of the matter but it was not availed. There are chances that ID Card is fake but DNA (Human Genetic Structure) codes of parents and their children’s perfect matching is 100% precise and sure.

In this regard, Doctor Muhammad Ismaeel who is the Deputy Director at KRL in Institute of Biomedical and Genetic Engineering, Islamabad, told me that the DNA of child directly comes from parents, 50% from mother and 50% from father. When we match the DNA of child with the DNA of parents then we can clearly distinguish the DNA of child from his/ her parent’s DNA and the DNA of other relatives.

It means that if the DNA is matched with the DNA of any cousin or other relative then it will not matched 100%. 100% matching is only and only with real child. Means if the DNA of the girls brought before the commission would be matched with the DNA of the parents of real murdered girls, then the truth will be easily revealed because if their DNA does not match with their parents of real murdered girls then these are not the real girls. The reason behind it is the fact that without parenting, the matching possibility of DNA is only 25%.

If at that time the area’s customs and traditions of the girls would not allowed them to come to the cities, then any lady doctor could be hired from city to go there and collect the samples (for test) from girls and the parents and after Laboratory tests, the reality would be revealed.

Two main progressed have been made after the closure of the case, the first one is that the tribe of the girls killed the three elder brothers {namely; (#1) Shah Faisal aged about 32 year, (#2) Shair Wali aged about 30 year and (#3) Rafi ul Deen aged about 28 year} of the video-boys on 03–01–2013 {But they had not any concern with the video and 15 children (9 male and 6 female) of these three sinless murdered brothers became orphan}. Then Afzal Kohistani filed an FIR in the Police Station on 04–01–2013 against the 12 murderers of his 3 brothers. When police arrested the murderers of the three brothers then after the investigation, the police found that the murderer skilled the 3 brothers because their brother made the video of the girls. (and the case is yet open in the Session Court of Daso-Kohistan).

Two facts came on scene after these murders. Firstly, they backed out the oath that they had taken before the Fact Finding Commission that there will be no bloodshed.

And secondly it had been quite obvious that if they have murdered the brothers of the boys, who were innocent, then surely they had already killed the girls (that they were hiding). Because it is the custom of that area to kill the girls first and then the boys if they bring defame to the area. And a number of their inhabitants told me Off The Record that in such matters they kill the defamed girls and boys (regardless of the matter that who is right and who is wrong) according to their area’s customs. But the people could not dare to say it On The Record as if they expose such truth then according to area’s customs even he would be killed by them.

Moreover, the reports of an intelligence agencies also revealed the same that it is looking nearly impossible for girls to survive according to the customs and traditions of Kohistan.

Some protests held after the murder of three brothers and due to which it got highlighted on the media once again, at that time Chief Justice was on the visit of Gujranwala District Bar on 04–01–2013. When he talked to the media, a journalist named Malik Tariq Awan asked the question to Chief Justice that the 3 brothers of the video-boys have been murdered regarding Kohistani video case. Then Chief Justice said that if any application will be forwarded to me regarding Kohistan video case, then I will reopen it. Later on, media gave remarkable coverage to the statement of Chief Justice.

Then on 05–01–2013 Afzal Kohistani put forward the application in Supreme Court once again to reopen the case but he got the reply from Supreme Court to contact “Session Court, Dasu-Kohistan” regarding the murder case. Whereas Afzal Kohistani did not do appeal in the Supreme Court to do the trial of the murderers of his brothers in Supreme Court. Whereas the appeal was made that the doubt for which these three brothers were murdered means the girls who caused the killing of these brothers. In spite of all, if even then, the Provincial Government (and local residents) says that the girls are alive then bring them before the court. Afzal Kohistani submitted his case-file again on 07–02–2013 by mentioning all the necessary disclosures in written form of the case. But inspite of passing so much time, there is no reply from Supreme Court received yet.

In addition to that, after the murder of brothers, Afzal Kohistani along the way met with the Presidents of Bar Associations of Lawyers in the different cities and submitted his applications in order to reopen his case. So that they may appraise Chief Justice at their own behalf. But inspite of all these sources to process these applications, yet there has not been any further progress.

Then in the meanwhile, Katharine Houreld correspondent of an international news agency, sent the pictures captured by Fact Finding Commission to British company “Digital Barriers PLC” for comparing with the picture of video-girl. (It is the same company whose Facial Recognition software is used by military and other law enforcement agencies throughout the world). After comparing these pictures, this company told that the pictures captured are different from the picture of girl in video. Katharine Houreld had submitted these facts (along with the laboratory report of Facial Recognition) and other proofs and objections, etc to Supreme Court on 25–02–2013. When I met Katharine Houreld regarding this case, she told me that I have approached Supreme Court several times with all these but did not get response at all yet. (For reader’s information I want to tell that photo’s comparison technology is also available at NADRA).

Then Doctor Farzana Bari submitted an application to Supreme Court on 25–03–2013 to reopen this case, in which she based the murder of three sinless brothers caused by the Kohistani video and laboratory report indicating not resemblance in the photographs, etc.

But instead of replying the application to Doctor Farzana Bari directly, the Supreme Court sent the reply to her through her University’s Vice Chancellor on 16–04–2013 and it was written that there is no need to reopen this case anymore. (whereas sending reply to Doctor Farzana Bari via University’s Vice Chancellor was equivalent to pressurize Doctor Farzana Bari to stay away from this case because this letter of Supreme Court, was received to Doctor Farzana Bari with an additional letter of Vice Chancellor on 29–04–2013, in which the Vice Chancellor’s message was directed not to use university platform for such activities and along with it was also requested to abstain from such type of activities in the future).

Whereas Doctor Farzana Bari had sent the application personally to Supreme Court to reopen the case, according to the principle its reply was apt to be sent to Doctor Farzana Bari directly. Secondly, Doctor Farzana Bari did not involved in the case by herself but Chief Justice of Supreme Court himself designated her a member of Fact Finding Commission and thirdly, when the Fact Finding Commission Report was presented in Supreme Court, after the hearing when Chief Justice gave verdict, then he also wrote that if Doctor Farzana Bari found any proof, we would reopen this case.

With reference to all, the attitude of Supreme Court towards Doctor Farzana Bari is beyond understanding.

Keeping all aspects of the facts regarding the whole matter, if it is analyzed without any biasness then we will come to know that at first Chief Justice took notice by himself as the highest authority of justice but he did not accomplish his duty later on. Because at that time when Doctor Farzana Bari told the Chief Justice that she is doubtful, then it was duty of Chief Justice to immediately involve NADRA, etc for verification because the commission had brought the finger prints of the girls from there. The commission had brought also new pictures; old pictures were also already there (which were taken from the video clip), He should have made a committee to further investigate the matter. It was not necessary to close the case at the same day after hearings while giving the decision. Anyhow, if the case was closed at that time, but later on, the murder of 3 brothers and when from the murderers the reason of killing them came to the scene, then it was an enough witness to prove that girls have also been murdered. In parallel, when the picture laboratory report, etc from Katharine Houreld was also received, then Chief Justice should have reopened this case. If Chief Justice had even a little bit serious in this case, then surely he had reopened the case and in this way, by reopening the case his last mistake would also be covered, people might said that It’s OK, mistake may be committed by anyone. Now, it is looking obvious that the attitude of Chief Justice is none serious and biased in this case. And it is not the case that rest of the media is not aware of it but Off The Record, they also have the same thinking but due to the fear of contempt of court, On The Record they do not open the mouths and have kept the fast of silence. I have been forced to think and write about it as a concerned citizen, after observing for a long period. And neither I am personally against someone nor supporting someone personally rather I am only doing an unbiased analysis by keeping in view all the facts. And I have respect (from the day first) for Chief Justice from the bottom of my heart and pleases too as he often takes suo motu notice against the cases of human rights violation. Yet I feel it was also his responsibility to do special follow up of this case and if only 1% doubt was expressed in this case at that time, because he is sitting in the highest seat of justice in the country, then it was also his duty to conduct thorough investigation to his full satisfaction and later on when the incident of the murder of 3 brothers happened then I was anxiously hopping from him that now he would reopen the case and thoroughly investigate about those girls, which he did not conduct. Now the situation is that 3 boys of their family have been murdered and rest of their family which has left, their lives are also in danger because in the verdict the order of killing their whole family has been issued. If tomorrow more precious sinless lives are lost then who would be responsible for that?

After the death verdict was issued against the video-boys and their family, the entire family (which was comprised of about 70 individuals) left their own area to save their lives and now they are soughing out shelters in the different far off desolate and lonely areas and they do hectic physical labour from the day break to the evening to make both ends meet then they are able to survive. Whereas before this heart-rendering incident, this family used to live a magnificent life in their area, they had owned thousands of kanals of agricultural land and gardens as well. But now you can say that all these things have been snatched away from them. Because whenever they send their trusted people to cultivate their lands, then Jirga-men there make them flee by threatening and saying Off The Record that if they tried to cultivate the lands, then their lives will not be safe and when on complaint some Government official goes to inquire of the Jirga-men, they pose to be innocent before them and say there is nothing like as such as you are saying, there is no obstacle from our side. They can do as they wish to do.

Along with this, now among the boys’ family the major threat is for Afzal Kohistani’s life who is the elder brother of the video-boys because he is the only person in the boys’ family who is struggling throughout the country for the sake of Justice. According to Afzal Kohistani after Jirga’s verdict, he is not only receiving the death threats but some armed persons also follow him to find a chance to kill. Afzal Kohistani further told that they are trying to trap him in fake cases and there is a fear that on some hearing day, outside some court room, armed persons may open the fire to kill him when he would come out of court (according to Afzal Kohistani, he has been attacked 7 times with the intention to be killed). Moreover, Afzal Kohistani also told that he keeps on changing his residence in different cities to save his life, so that someone may not inform them against him. As he has not his property anymore, that’s why he is facing financial problems due to not having any permanent source of livelihood.

The crime of Afzal Kohistani was only that he raised his voice against the ignorance of his area (that’s why, those people became the most furious enemies of his life). Even the Jirga used to make such decisions before this incident happened in that area and the families of boys and girls used to accept (without distinguishing the right and wrong) as it was the area’s customs and traditions but Afzal Kohistani refused to accept the decision of Jirga as it was against the constitution. And it is also true that if Afzal Kohistani would have desired, he could himself take the revenge of his brothers by taking the law in his hand according to his area’s customs and traditions because Afzal Kohistani is also the resident of that village, but he accepts the writ of the state. And he does not want to do such a blood shedding by following the wrong traditions of his area, that’s why he is wandering and knocking door to door for justice.

According to Afzal Kohistani if he had been provided justice, then today he, according to his wish, would have been living like a civilized citizen after completing his studies, but he has got disappointed of these courts and has forced to think of sucide.

If Afzal Kohistani would do suicide then who will be responsible for that?

It is also confirmed from a number of reliable sources that Chief Justice ignored this case on his Registrar, Faqeer Hussain’s saying because his brother whose name is Ghulam Hussain was appointed as DPO in Batgram District at that time and the Provincial Government and the senior police officers said Ghulam Hussain (DPO, Batgram) to tell his brother Faqeer Hussain (Registrar of Supreme Court) to ask Chief Justice to close the case lest it cause defamation to their Province. I think, we should not ignore this aspect also. Because it is not necessary that we always blame an intelligence agencies for every evil deed and defame them.

I don’t think so at all that if the case is reopened, it will defame the country, rather not opening the case is defaming the country more. Hence, this case must be reopened and the girls should be brought to court of law if they are yet alive and ensure their identification. It is not an argument that they cannot come to court due to their area’s customs and traditions. Is that region and their customs are beyond the constitutional and geographical boundaries of the state? or those people are stronger than the state? According to me all this is the lame excuses of the people of that area, when the girls of that area can go to NADRA for developing their ID Cards or for medical treatment or when there was an earthquake in Kohistan, then they can go to National Bank to receive cheques from the male strangers (rather at that time they had their accounts in National Bank). It means to avail all this, they can go by putting back their customs and traditions, then why can’t they come to Supreme Court when they are called? If these girls have died then neither there is any death sentence law in the country for clapping nor there is such ethical demand nor their Jirga has some constitutional or legal value. Then those are criminal who took the law in their own hands by challenging the writ of the government. They must be arrested and punished, if it is not done then the loss of precious lives will continue.

We also have to see this case symbolically, because after the murder of girls, in the same tehsil, uptill now according to the sources about 25 more innocent lives have been taken in the name of honour, and if we don’t do justice in this case by conducting complete transparent investigation, then we will be encouraging that so-called Jirgas in making their states with in the state and keep on running in them their most obsolete traditions, the most filthy customs, the most evil petty issues and the worst superstitions. And openly making fun of and crushing the constitution and justice of this democratic state and the exactly all this is the wish of Taliban and they want to run the country to implement their own orders; rejecting the constitution of the state. Then someone tell me what is the difference between them? One has worn the cloak of regional customs & traditions and the other has put on the cloak of religion but doing the same thing i.e., spreading their terror in the people (according to me any human who is doing anti-human activities, spreading terror in people, is a terrorist, so like Taliban these Jirga-people should also be considered terrorist and they should also be banned.

One story opens another. Well! This case and Supreme Court’s indifference over it, is such a matter, that brings out such a regret, which is beyond any words could explain. Maybe Chief Justice does not need my advice but he needs himself to review his own decisions because his silence regarding this case is equivalent to badly affecting the trust of the people in the justice system of state. Due to which there is a fear that those people will get more strength who have sentiments against our judicial system. Though it is a bitter reality yet we cannot close our eyes and the atmosphere of peace and calmness which is apparently at this time prevailing on Judiciary, it is all temporary and artificial. If Chief Justice before leaving his office does not resolve this case, this black stain of injustice will always stick to him.

It is not only an ordinary issue of a few local individuals, rather if it is viewed through the eye of humanity, then it is a universal issue and if this issue is not settled with full justice then this issue will be engraved in the heart and mind of every conscious and sensitive human as an unpleasant memory of Injustice forever.