Pakistan tribal council members face trial for 'honor killing' of teenage girl

Thirteen members of a Pakistani tribal council, who killed a 17-year old girl as punishment for helping one of her friends elope, will face trial under anti-terrorism laws.

(AP Photo/Aqeel Ahmed)
Pakistani police officers escort members of a local tribal council, with their faces covered outside a court in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Pakistani police have arrested 13 members of a local tribal council for burning alive a girl, who had helped one of her friends elope to marry a man of her choice.

Thirteen members of a Pakistani tribal council who allegedly strangled a girl to death and set her body on fire as punishment for helping one of her friends elope will face trial under anti-terrorism laws, police said Saturday.

The body of 17-year-old Ambreen Riasat was found in a torched van near a tourist resort in northwestern Pakistan on April 29. Police say the tribal council ordered the killing, and that the girl was strangled to death before her body was placed in the van and set alight. Police officer Muhammad Tahir said the suspects have been detained by counterterrorism police.

In 2005, Pakistan outlawed "honor killing." At the time, The Christian Science Monitor reported: "It is a landmark decision as the law protects the rights of women and eliminates such archaic rituals," says Wasi Zafar, the federal minister for law and parliamentary affairs. "But the problem is securing the rights of women, and it will be solved gradually and slowly by collective efforts of the society. Such inhumane crimes occur due to the tribal system, illiteracy, and poverty and we have to solve these issues."

But today, nearly 1,000 women are killed every year in Pakistan in so-called honor killings in response to alleged romantic liaisons outside the bounds of arranged marriage. The killings are often carried out by close male relatives, but in this case, it appears the girl's father was not involved, and now wants the culprits punished.

Tahir said area councilor Pervez Gul Zaman, one of the 13 detained suspects, endorsed the council's verdict and wanted to "make the girl an example" to deter others in the village from eloping. He said authorities are still awaiting the results of forensics testing, which would show whether the girl was drugged or poisoned, or subjected to any other "assault."

The girl's father, Riyasat, rushed to the village from the southern port city of Karachi after hearing about the death of his daughter. He is demanding that her killers also be burned in public, according to Matloob Khan, another police officer.

Tahir said Shamim, the mother of the slain girl, has been detained and is under investigation, adding that she did not appear concerned when her daughter went missing and had not enquired about the body found in the van.

But Khan said the girl's father has argued for his wife's innocence. Both parents go by one name.

Pakistan's main rights group, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, has strongly condemned the girl's killing.

"Nothing that the authorities do now can bring back the young victim, but they should at least now atone for their inaction by seeing to it that justice is done in this case and conditions that allow such incidents to take place are confronted," it said.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Since 1993, the United Nations has led a campaign to curb violence against women. Close to $100 million has been spent to help nations improve their laws and enforcement. The UN dedicates each Nov. 25 as a day to highlight the issue. Since 2000, the Security Council has taken steps to reduce wartime rape, especially in eastern Congo. In 2002, the International Criminal Court recognized that sexual violence may constitute a war crime.

According to a 2011 UN report, “Although there is further to go, laws on violence against women are beginning to establish the kind of clear mandates and procedures that are needed to drive implementation and improve women’s access to justice.”

In his latest book, “A Call To Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” former President Jimmy Carter refers to gender-based violence and religious persecution of women as “the most serious challenge facing us now.” He and his wife have traveled the globe spotlighting the issue. He calls on leaders in male-dominated religions to change their practices and beliefs about the status of women.

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