By Khadijah Shah
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN: A Senate Committee hearing on the gruesome details of the live burials of women in Balochistan was notified on Friday that the number of women murdered could be SEVEN not FIVE or THREE as reported earlier.
Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Haji Adeel said that he was convinced that the number of murdered women might be seven not three or five as earlier reported and that a new version of the incident was being used to divert the attention from the burial of five women, who were said to be unmarried. He said, he had no doubt in his mind that a total of seven women might have been killed in the name of honour, and that the graves of five women are missing.
Jamal Laghari said if those girls were declared Kari, then where were those boys or men with whom they were suspected of having illicit relationships. He claimed that a big cover-up was in the making.
Rahim Mandokhel also wondered how could the girls be killed without identifying those with whom they were captured. He said this was a bogus story as Baloch traditions did not protect such killings and no woman can be killed without establishing the identity of the male. But, this is not the case in the killing of these women. He challenged the statement of the IG that a Jirga was held before the killings.
Prof Khursheed Ahmed also agitated over the cover-up being to save powerful people and wondered how many more versions of this story would be given to the parliamentarians.
IG Balochistan Asif Nawaz tried to offer his own defense by saying that he was recently posted to Balochistan and he was working with ill-trained police in the area, where this incident had occurred.
He also claimed that the investigations were still under process and he was giving the information to the authorities, which they were getting from the accused under investigation. Asif Nawaz said now he
had deputed good officers to investigate the case. He denied that there was any pressure on him to let the real culprits off the hook. But he could not reply to the questions that why PPP Minister Sadiq Umrani was so far not questioned although he was the first one to confirm these killings in his area.
The IG claimed that all the people accused of attending the Jirga had gone underground and he was trying to “lure” them.
But the senators refused to accept the IG’s version of the events and expressed their total dissatisfaction over the police investigations.
Policeman Tariq Khosa said unless the state would not become a party to the honour killing and courts would disallow any compromises, women killing in the name of honour would not come to an end. Khosa said he was convinced that at some stage some powerful people had decided to kill those Baloch girls and that was why, now the case was registered under anti terrorism act so as to give maximum punishment to those killers. He assured that no pressure would be entertained. He told the senators that their useful input would now form the basis of future investigations.
Human Rights Activist Samar Minhallah also shared her own findings with the committee in the light of her own investigation. She said Baloch reporters who had actually unearthed this story and had shared
useful information were facing threats to their lives.
Tahira Abdullah also lauded the efforts of the members of the Senate body and endorsed the view of Haji Adeel that the number of women killed might be seven as there seemed to be three separate cases of honour killings, which were now being deliberately mixed to save the real culprits who enjoyed political clout.
Committee Chairman SM Zafar said the committee unanimously condemned the killing of these women. He also gave one month to the IG Balochistan to submit his final report to the committee.
However, the Committee on Human Rights was ignored totally by the PPP government as none of the three important ministers, who are active members of the Senate body, attended the meeting chaired by Senator SM Zafar.
The absence of these three powerful ministers was felt not only because of their current ministerial status but in their capacity as its members, by the jam-packed Committee Room which heard the shocking disclosure that the total number of the women buried alive may be
seven. Those who did not attend the meeting were Farooq Naik, Latif Khosa and Rehman Malik.
The notice of the committee meeting was sent days earlier, so everybody had ample time to ensure his or her presence in the meeting. Several senators also confronted IG Balochistan Asif Nawaz for a
detailed clarification for making a threatening phone call to a correspondent (Rauf Klasra) in a bid to stop him from pursuing the story. They termed it a sort of “shooting the messenger” and wondered how he could expect from journalists to share their sources of information with him.
However, Nawaz clarified that he only meant to get some information from The News correspondent which might have helped the investigations. These senators also appreciated the efforts of The
News correspondent to keep the issue alive.
Meanwhile, suspected involvement of one of the PPP ministers in the Balochistan government in this case is said to have kept the three PPP ministers away from the important proceedings. In the absence of Interior Adviser Rehman Malik, the meeting discussed how the police had badly failed to make any breakthrough in these investigations and now attempts were being made to bury the issue after the arrest of some loyal servants of those powerful men.
The Leader of the House Raza Rabbani, who in the past has played an important role in protecting the rights of women, turned up in the meeting one hour late. He spoke for five minutes to oppose the
role of the Senate Body on Human Rights to discuss the issue when investigations were underway. Astonishingly, Rabbani lost his temper during the meeting when it was pointed out that the PPP minister in Balochistan government might hamper the investigations and warned that the proceedings of the committee should remain unbiased and non-partisan.
Earlier, the enraged committee members were totally dissatisfied with the version of the Balochistan Police and after three-hour-long proceedings, were of the view that a big cover-up was in the making to save some political guns of Balochistan who had actually killed those girls to settle their own political enmities.
After finding that he did not have a valid answer to their questions, IG Balochistan
Asif Nawaz was put on the mat by well-prepared senators who used their own information to reject police findings, and wondered how the police could have failed to apprehend the real culprits who are still at large while some loyal servants of the tribal chiefs were presented as scapegoats.
The meeting was attended by Senators Mushahid Hussain, Dr Mohammad Said, Prof Khursheed Ahmed, Yasmeen Shah, Jamal Laghari, Mohammad Ali Durrani, Haji Mohammad Adeel, Abdur Rahim Mandookhel, Mohammad Talha Mahmood, Anisa Zab Tahirkheli, Maulana Samiul Haq, Haif Rashid, Raza Rabbani, Dr Khalid Ranjha, Abbad Komaili, Sadia Abbasi, and Nasar Khan.
Secretary Interior Kamal Shah and top police cop Tariq Khosa were also present in the meeting. Two human rights activists Tahira Abdullah and Samar Minhallah and this correspondent (Rauf Klasra) were invited to attend the meeting as observers.
The senators were angry over the fact that the Balochistan Police had failed to even register the FIR against the culprits and now they were busy in the cover-up.
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