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PAKISTAN: Three bodies of the five women buried alive have been removed to destroy vital evidence

September 3, 2008
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The Balochistan police, in a bid to destroy any available evidence, have removed three of the bodies of the five women who were buried alive in Baba Kot, Jafferabad. (For details please refer to the AHRC Urgent Appeal: PAKISTAN: Five women buried alive, allegedly by the brother of a minister - http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/2969/). The women, including three young girls between 16 – 18 years-of-age were buried alive after being shot because the three younger girls wanted to marry persons of their own choice. The bodies were finally recovered on September 2, 2008.

The bodies of the five women were initially shifted between midnight on August 30 and 31 after being desecrated by wild animals as the ‘graves’ were less than two feet deep. It is firmly believed that the police and provincial authorities, who are under tremendous pressure from protests through out the country and debates in the Senate and provincial assembly of Sindh, shifted the bodies in order to destroy evidence. It is an accepted fact by the government of Pakistan and authorities in Balochistan that all the women were buried in a single grave at Baba Kot. However, the local area police have announced the recovery of only two bodies. Eye witnesses, living in the area reported that during the night of Saturday the early morning of Sunday, the police, in the company of some soldiers arrived with heavy equipment and removed the bodies in an ambulance belonging to a famous charitable organization.

Despite the delay of over a month and a half the police have not instigated an investigation or made any effort to arrest the perpetrators. The main perpetrator has a history of killing people on the pretext of honor killings. It is known that he previously killed eight persons on the same pretext. In the month of May 2008, he purchased impunity by paying a fine of Rs. 10 million (around US $ 150,000.) through a Jirga (an illegal tribal judiciary), which was presided over by Mr. Magsi, the provincial minister of the Sindh government. The money was paid in compensation to the families of the victims.

Since the disclosure of the case by the Asian Human Rights Commission the Balochistan police have started destroying any evidence that might prove useful to an eventual investigation. First, the inspector general of police (IGP) Balochistan sent a report to federal secretary of the interior, denying the existence of such a case. This report was rejected out of hand by the secretary of the interior who demanded a factual report. He was particularly concerned by the incident as the chief minister of Balochistan was mentioned in the urgent appeal. However, the IGP’s second report was also rejected by the secretary. The federal government then assigned Mr. Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh, the Deputy Inspector General (DIG), to investigate the case and report. Contrary to expectations, as the perpetrators had been named, Mr. Sheikh arrested three of the relatives of two of the deceased girls. These persons confessed, as is usual for people in police custody, to the killings and the burials. Strangely, the police have arrested seven persons in connection with the case but have so far only recovered two of the bodies which are vital for forensic evidence.

The police surgeon, Dr. Mashwani, while disclosing the report, said that the girls were killed by blunt weapons and not by bullets but then later in the evening of the same day she told a television channel that bullet marks were also found. It was later confirmed in the media that the girls had been shot dead.

The advisor to the prime minister on interior affairs and minister in charge, Mr. Rehman Malik, is also contributing to the confusion over the case. On September 4, he told the media that three persons had been killed while traveling in a taxi and that their bodies had been properly bathed before burial. He categorically stated that there was no information that five women had been buried alive. The minister was, in fact, referring to another case which occurred in January 2006 in which the same perpetrators killed three persons at Shahi Chowki, who were traveling in a taxi. Ms. Parveen, a school teacher, was going with her boy friend to be married at a civil court. All the three were killed by their assailants.

After a debate in the senate Mr. Tariq Khosa, former Inspector General of Police, was assigned to investigate the case but, unaccountably, the paperwork authorizing him to head a committee and make inquiries on the behalf of the government was never finalised. The Balochistan police hurriedly took charge of the case and even prevented Mr. Khosa from visiting the province. Now it is reported that the government of Pakistan has halted further investigations into the case.

There are conscious efforts by persons with vested interests and those in official circles to hide the facts about the case. Currently there are no independent investigation procedures in Pakistan to investigate cases of heinous crimes. In addition to this, there is an alarming lack of sensitivity among the legal professionals, including the judiciary regarding the practice of torture, violence against women and tribal traditions and customs against the weaker sections of the population. In such circumstances the damage such practices causes to the possibility of maintaining the rule of law in the country goes understated. This lack of sensitivity is equally shared by the prosecution and the law enforcement agencies. It is due to this there is a lack of development in the criminal law jurisprudence in Pakistan. Pakistan has thus far failed to effectively address the question of violence by the powerful groups.

There is a need to conduct a thorough and independent judicial enquiry into this case so that the facts can be revealed. In a case where five women are buried alive in the pretext of honour killings it is absolutely vital that such a heinous crime be investigated and the perpetrators punished to the fullest extent of the law. A complete overhaul of the investigation system is the demand of the day. In any case before them, the prosecution must use the very latest developments available to uncover the truth and not rely on confessions which are usually obtained through torture.

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