Monday, 1 September 2008

Five Women Buried Alive In Pakistan.

"It was shocking to see Senator Israrullah Zehri from Balochistan informing the Senate on Friday that the killing or burial of women alive for ‘honour’ is a tribal tradition and should not be portrayed negatively. Responding to Senator Yasmeen Shah’s statement on reports of five women being buried alive in Balochistan in the name of honour, Zehri asked members not to politicise the issue, as it was a matter of safeguarding the tribal traditions."

The Asian Human Rights Commission has been informed from a remote area of the province of Baloutchistan that five women were buried alive there, notably by the youngest brother of Sadiq Umrani, Minister for the province and well-known leader of the Pakistan People's Party, the party in power. Further, the police have still not arrested the guilty parties and this, more than a month after the events.

Details of the case.

The Umrani tribe is concentrated mainly in the districts of Jarabad and Naseerabad of the Baloutchistan province, around 300 kilometres from the town of Quetta, the capital of the province. Sadiq Umrani, the province's Minister for Housing and Construction, was elected to the Baloutchistan Assembly during the elections of February 18th 2008 for the constituency of Dera Marad Jamzali district of Naseerabad.

The burial alive of the women took place in a remote village, Baba Kot, 80 kilometres from the town of Usta Mohammad, in the Jafferabad district. It is thought to be due to the influence of the minister and his brother that the media has not reported these facts.

Reportedly, these five women are Fatima, wife of Umeed Ali Umrani, Jannat Bibi, wife of Qaiser Khan, Fauzia, daughter of Ata Mohammad Umrani, and two other girls, who were 16 and 18 years old. They were at the home of Mr Chandio in the village of Baba Kot, and had to leave for the civil court of Usta Mohammad (in the Jaffarabad district) where three of these girls were to marry men of their choice. Their decision to marry at the civil court stemmed from several days of discussion with elders of the tribe who refused to grant them the right to marry. The strong control of the tribal leaders in that region explains why the names of the two youngest victims are not known.

When the news of their plans became known, Abdul Sattar Umrani, a brother of the minister, arrived with at least six people and threatened them with a gun. They were taken in a Land Cruiser jeep, registered in the Baloutchistan province, to another remote area, Nau Abadi, near Baba Kot. Once in the desert area of nau Abadi, Abdul Sattar Umrani and his six companions made the three youngest girls get out of the jeep and beat them up before shooting them. The girls were seriously wounded but still alive. Sattar Umrani and his accomplices threw them into a deep pit, which they began to refill with earth and rocks. The two older women were Fauzia's aunt and the mother of one of the minors. When they protested and tried to stop the burial of the still living minors, the attackers were so angry that they threw them into the pit and buried them alive too. After completing the burial, they fired several shots into the air to stop anyone coming near.

The minors were students and were pursuing their studies in the 10th and 12th years. They were punished for trying to decide for themselves about marriage.

One month later, the police have still not registered the case and it is difficult to obtain more detailed information. The minister for the province is so powerful that the police are reluctant to collect details of the murder. When the Asian Human Rights Commission contacted Sadiq Umrani, the minister for the province, he confirmed the facts, saying only that three women had been killed by strangers. He denied all involvement on his part or of his brother in the crime. He just said that the police wouldn't give any information about the case, as if that might implicate them, if they did. In addition, officials from two different police forces have confirmed the facts and explained that no one has given them any more information. Also, as they cannot find the pit where the victims are buried, it is difficult for them to register the case. Members of the victims' families have since left the area and no one knows where they are.

Abdul Sattar Umrani, the alleged guilty party and his brother, the minster for the province, were already implicated in the murder of three people, one of them a young woman, in January 2006. In that case, Mohammas Aslam, a student, was on his way in a taxi to the civil court, with his girlfriend, to get married. The guilty parties stopped them at Manjo Shori, sub-district of Tumboo district of Naseerabad, and shot the three people, the taxi driver, Jabal Aidee, being one of the victims. The police were unable to open a murder investigation for five months, until the intervention of Iftekhar Choudhry, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and speaker at the Senate. But only one person was arrested and the main culprit and leader, Abdul Sattar Umrani, was not charged.

Additional information.

Every year in Pakistan, hundreds of women, of all ages and from all regions of the country, are killed in the name of honour. Most of the crimes go unpunished. The lives of millions of women in Pakistan are subject to traditions which involve extreme isolation and submission to men who use violence to impose ownership control on them. Most of the women stoically accept this male control over their bodies, their speech and their behaviour as being an aspect of their, "destiny," but the taking up of positions in the media, working for organisations for women's rights and a greater mobility has led to awareness of women's rights in these isolated women.

But while women are claiming their rights or simply trying to claim them, they often have to face more repression and punishment: the number of honour crimes has risen in parallel with the development of awareness of women's rights. The indifference of the state, discriminatory laws and the sexist views of most police officers and the law, assures immunity for those guilty of crimes of honour. It is ironic that women who have such a low status in society and no rights in the family should become the focus on which is concentrated the false and primitive views of family honour, which refuses to take into consideration their hopes and preferences in the question of marriage. (Honour Killings in Pakistan, by Neshey Najam)

At the root of the Pashtun and Baluchi tribal traditions, honour murders are based on the twin conceptions of honour and the merchandising of women. Women are married against a dowry paid the the father of the husband. There is no conception of girls marrying according to their free choice and if they do, they are killed in the name of honour.

To add your name to the call for an inquiry into the murder of the five women, click here:

Asian Human Rights Commission

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