PAKISTAN: Army soldiers attack wedding party: 13 killed including bride and groom; 21 injured

Soldiers attached to the Frontier Constabulary (FC) of the Pakistan Army have attacked a wedding party on the night of February 3, killing 13 persons including the bride and groom, the wedding officiator (called nikah khawn) and six members of the same family. Twenty one (21) persons were also injured, the majority of them, women. It has been reported that the attack was in retaliation to an incident on February 2, in which unknown assailants had killed three soldiers of the same constabulary.

The incident occurred at a place called Dashte Goran, 18 kilometres from the town of Dera Buti. This town has remained under military occupation since 2002 and had also been bombed repeatedly, by the Pakistani Air Force. The present incident began when there was a marriage party in the area; and in keeping with local custom many relatives and friends of both families attended the wedding party — sometimes travelling for long distances. According to some media reports, when the FC soldiers saw the large gathered outside the wedding house, they were scared and attacked the house. They then indiscriminately fired into the wedding party on the pretext that they had been shot from inside the premises. Apparently the FC officers had not even bothered to ask people outside the house, what was going on inside.

Due to the ongoing military operations in Balochistan, members of the FC have been given the authority to shoot at sight, any person of suspicion, without further ado. Only a day before on February 2, some unknown persons, riding motorcycles had attacked a check post of the near Dera Bugti Town. It is reliably believed that the indiscriminate shooting at an innocent wedding party — killing 13 and seriously injuring 21 persons — was in retaliation of the previous day incident.

The identities of the unfortunate persons killed by the FC have now been revealed. They are: Maulana Qazi Gul Din son of Paher Din, Mandoz son of Muhammad Bijar (the groom), Ali Baig, Pir Bux, Ullo, Todhoo, Kakar, Behram, Bahar Khan, Baran Baloch, Thalu Khan, Kakeer and the bride. Among them, Ali Baig, Pir Bux, Ullo, Todhoo, Kakar, Behram and Bahar Khan belonged to one family. After the massacre, the FC members were seen taking away the dead with them, in three military trucks.

The Inspector General of FC denied reports of the firing incident but according to media reports, the police have cordoned off the areas and shifted the injured persons to the Dera Bugti District Hospital. The critically injured have been transferred to Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, and admitted to a civil hospital. Later a AFP quoted a local official speaking on the ground of anonymity as saying that the soldiers had raided a house in the area on Monday night to track down militants. When the troops stormed the house, some shots were fired by the residents and the troops returned the fire, killing four people, including the bride and the groom.

This is not the first time FC officers have attacked ordinary civilians. Reportedly in 2006, at Eid Azha, a major festival celebrated by Muslims, the FC attacked people participating in the slaughtering of animals, killing 14 persons. The FC had then taken away the bodies and kept them at a Pakistan army cantonment for four days; it was only with the intervention of elders and tribal chiefs that the Army returned the—by then—badly decomposed bodies.

On February 2, the chief minister of the province claimed that there were no military operations in the province; but only one day later the false utterances of the civilian government has been were exposed. To date, the provincial government has failed to take any action regarding the bloody incident, and this is another example of the military’s contemptuous attitude towards the Balochi people. Incidents such this and others e.g. the detaining of women as sex slaves in a military torture cell at Karachi — capital of the Sindh province clearly indicate that the Pakistan armed forced are out of control.

Therefore the Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government of Asif Zardari, President of Pakistan to immediately order a judicial inquiry into the killing of so many people by the Frontier Constabulary allegedly in retaliation to a previous attack on FC personnel by unknown miscreants. The government should immediately pull out the military and its paramilitary forces from the Balochistan province. The officials involved in this multiple killing should be forthwith arrested and tried for murder in the ordinary courts of Pakistan under section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-026-2009
Countries : Pakistan,