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PAKISTAN: Five women buried alive, allegedly by the brother of a minister

August 11, 2008

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-182-2008

11 August 2008
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PAKISTAN: Five women buried alive, allegedly by the brother of a minister

ISSUES: Honour killing; violence against women; impunity; no investigation; abduction; murder
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from a remote area of Balochistan province, that five women were buried alive, allegedly by the younger brother of Mr. Sadiq Umrani, the provincial minister and a prominent leader of the Pakistan People's Party, the ruling party. However, police have still not arrested the perpetrators after one month of the incident.

CASE DETAILS:

The Umrani tribe is mainly concentrated in the Jafarabad and Naseerabad districts of Balochistan provice that are about 300 kilometers from Quetta city, the provincial capital. Mr. Sadiq Umrani, the provincial minister for housing and construction, was elected to the Balochistan Assembly in the February 18, 2008 elections from Dera the Murad Jamali constituency of district Naseerabad.
The incident of the women being buried alive occurred in a remote village, the Baba Kot, 80 kilometers away from Usta Mohammad city of Jafferabad district. It is believed that due to the influence of the minister and his brother the incident was not reported in the media.

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 minors were educated and were studying in classes from 10 to 12. They were punished for trying to decide about their marriages.

After one month the police have still not registered the case and it is difficult to get more detailed information. The provincial minister is so powerful that police are reluctant to provide details on the murder. When the AHRC contacted Mr. Sadiq Umrani, provincial minister, he confirmed the incident by saying that only three women had been killed by unknown persons. He denied his or his brother's involvement. He went on to say that the police will not disclose any information about the case as to do so now would be implicate themselves. However, concerned officers of two different police stations have confirmed the incident and explained that no one is providing any information. Also as they could not find the graves of the victims it is difficult to register the case. The victim's family members have since left the place and their whereabouts are unknown.

The 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.

ADDITIONA INFORMATION:

Every year in Pakistan hundreds of women, of all ages and in all parts of the country, are reported killed in the name of honour. Many more cases go unreported. Almost all go unpunished. The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are circumscribed by traditions, which enforce extreme seclusion and submission to men many of whom impose their virtually proprietarily control over women with violence. For the most part, women bear the traditional male control over every aspect of their bodies, speech and behaviour with stoicism, as part of their kismat (fate), but exposure to media, the work of women's rights groups and the greater degree of mobility have seen the beginnings of women's rights awareness seep into the secluded world of women. 

But if women begin to exert these rights, however tentatively, they often face more repression and punishment: the curve of honour killings has increased parallel to the rise in the awareness in rights. State indifference, discriminatory laws and the gender bias of much of the country's police force and judiciary have ensured virtual impunity for perpetuators of honour killings. It is paradoxical that women who enjoy such a poor status in society and have no standing in family should become a focal point of a false and primitive concept of family honour, which they are accepted to uphold at the expense of their inclinations and preference in the matters of marriage. [Honour Killings in Pakistan by Neshay Najam]

Originally a Baluch and Pashtun tribal custom, honour killings are founded in the twin concepts of honour and commodity of women. Women are married off for a bride price paid to the father. There is no concept for girls to get marriage on their own choice and if it is found then, they are killed in the name of honour. (Please also refer to LESSON Series 35 May 2004 of Human Rights Correspondence School)

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the following mentioned authorities demanding to file the case of murder of five women by burial alive by the perpetrators.

Please be informed that the AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women calling for an intervention in this case.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

PAKISTAN: Five women buried alive, allegedly by the brother of a minister

Names of victims;
1. Ms. Fatima wife of, Umeed Ali Umrani, 45 years old
2. Ms.Jannat Bibi wife of Qaiser Khan, 38 years old
3. Ms.Fauzia daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani 18 years and two other girls, in between 16 to 18 years of age
(All are residents of village Mir Wah, Tehseel Tumboo, District Naseerabad, Balochistan province,
 Pakistan)

Name of alleged perpetrators: Mr. Abdul Sattar Umrani, residing at Usta Mohammad city, Jaffarabad, District, Balochistan province-Pakistan and his six accomplices
Place of incident; Village Baba Kot police station, Jafferabad, District, Pakistan

I am shocked to know that five women, including three minors, were buried alive in the remote of the Balochistan on the charges of choosing their life partners on their free will and not obeying the tribal tradition in their free choice. It is also of very grave concern for me that still the parallel judicial process is continued in the Pakistan in the name of Jirga which was banned by the higher courts of the country. Due to the powerful persons involvement the police is avoiding to register the case of killing of five women since first week of the July 2008.

According to the information that I have received, all five women 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 of the 16 year- old-girls. When they protested and tried to stop the burial of the girls that were plainly alive the attackers were so angry that they also pushed the women into the ditch and buried them alive. After completing the burial they fired several shots into to the air so that no one would come close.

The girls were educated and were studying in classes from 10 to 12. They were punished for trying to decide about their marriages.

After one and a half months the police have still not registered the case and it is difficult to get more detailed information. The provincial minister is so powerful that police are reluctant to provide details on the murder. When human rights activists contacted Mr. Sadiq Umrani, provincial minister, he confirmed the incident by saying that only three women had been killed by unknown persons. He denied his or his brother's involvement. He went on to say that the police will not disclose any information about the case as to do so now would be implicated themselves. However, concerned officers of two different police stations have confirmed the incident and explained that no one is providing any information. Also as they could not find the graves of the victims it is difficult to register the case. The victim's family members have since left the place and their whereabouts are unknown.

It is disturbing for me that anyone could be so inhumanly cruel as to bury someone alive. Whether or not Mr. Sadiq Umrani, is involved it is an established fact that a vehicle of the provincial government was used in the incident and that is why no police officer has dared to file a case against the perpetrators.

I request you to please take immediate action in this case and investigate this case as a matter of primary so that those responsible are brought to justice.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
President's Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1422, 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835
E-mail: (please see-> http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/WTPresidentMessage.aspx)

2. Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister
Prime Minister House, Islamabad,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 1596
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
E-mail: webmaster@infopak.gov.pk

3. Mr. Rehman Malik
Advisor for Ministry of Interior
Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block,
Pak Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2624
Tel: +92 51 921 2026
E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk

4. Mr. Farooq Naik
Minister of Law, Justice and Human Rights
S Block Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 920 2628
E-mail: minister@molaw.gov.pk or naek_law786@hotmail.com  

5. Nawab Aslam Raisani
Chief Minister of Balochistan
Chief Minister House, Quette,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 81 920 2240
Tel: +92 81 449582 / 440661
E-mail: mirlashkari@yahoo.com

6. Nawab Zulfiqar Magsi
Governor of Balochistan
Governor House Balochistan,
Quetta- Balochistan province,
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 81 920 2992.

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
AHRC-UAC-182-2008
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.