The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released a frightening account of its continued investigation into the alleged burning alive of five women in Pakistan after three of the women tried to marry men of their own choosing. The incident reportedly occurred in a remote area of Balochistan province and involved the younger brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, the provincial minister and a prominent leader of the Pakistan People’s Party. After one month, no arrests or progress has been made by police investigating the matter.
The allegations involve the very conservative Islamic traditions of the Umrani tribe that is concentrated in the Jafarabad and Naseerabad districts of Balochistan. Critics have blamed Mr. Sadiq Umrani, the provincial minister for housing and construction, for derailing the investigation.
According to the information received, five women were Ms. Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaiser Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, aged between 16 to 18 years. They were at the house of Mr. Chandio at Baba Kot village and to leave for a civil court at Usta Mohammad, district Jafarabad, so that three of the girls could marry the men of their choice. Their decision to have marriage in court was the result of several days of discussions with the elders of the tribe who refused them permission to marry. The names of two younger girls were not ascertained because of strong control of tribal leaders in the area.
As the news of their plans leaked out, Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, a brother of the minister, came with more than six persons and abducted them at gun points. They were taken in a Land Cruiser jeep, bearing a registration number plate of the Balochistan government, to another remote area, Nau Abadi, in the vicinity of Baba Kot. After reaching the deserted area of Nau Abadi, Abdul Sattar Umrani and his six companions took the three younger women out of the jeep and beat them before allegedly opening fire with their guns. The girls were seriously injured but were still alive at that moment. Sattar Umrani and his accomplices hurled them into a wide ditch and covered them with earth and stones. The two older women were an aunt of Fauzia and the other, the mother of one minor. When they protested and tried to stop the burial of the minors that were plainly alive, the attackers were so angry that they also pushed them into the ditch and buried all alive. After completing the burial, they fired several shots into to the air so that no one would come close.
The Human Rights group has noted:
alleged perpetrator, Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, the brother of the provincial minister, was also involved in murder of three persons, including one young woman, in January 2006. That case was similar in that a school teacher, Mr. Mohammad Aslam, was going with his lover in a taxi to a civil court to court marry. The perpetrators stopped them at Manjo Shori, sub district Tumboo, District Naseerabad and killed all three persons by gun fire. The dead included the taxi driver, Mr. Jabal Aidee. The police were unable to institute a murder case for five months until the intervention of Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry, the deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and also the deputy speaker of Senate. But only one person was arrested and the perpetrator Abdul Sattar Umrani remained at large.
It is only the latest such alleged atrocity against women and girls in this region, here
What I do not understand is why the media and governments have not done more to raise awareness of these horrific accounts of the treatment of women in this region. Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries cannot claim religious privilege to violate core human rights. Putting aside that most Muslims are equally horrified by such stories, no religious practice or belief can justify the reduction of women to mere chattel to be abused and killed by fanatics in these cases.
For the Asian Human Rights Commission story, click here.