09/02/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Balochistan, five girls buried alive for honor crimes

Qaiser Felix
Police have ordered an autopsy on the bodies of the women, who were killed because they married without their families' consent. It is a widespread practice in some areas of the country where the "law of the tribe" is still in effect. Strong condemnation from human rights activists.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Late yesterday evening, the police ordered the bodies of two women to be exhumed in the village of Babakot, district of Naseerabad, 320 kilometers east of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan. The police have ordered an autopsy to clarify the circumstances of the women's death. They are believed to have been "shot and then buried alive together with three other girls" for what seems to have been a "crime of honor" according to "tribal" law.

Also yesterday, the police of the district arrested seven suspects who are accused of ordering or carrying out the brutal multiple murder, following a call for action on the part of the Pakistani government. Those arrested include the father, brother, and a cousin of the slain girls.

The incident goes back to last July 13, when three girls were barbarously killed for marrying on their own initiative, without the consent of family members and village elders; the other two women met the same fate for "associating" with young men. The incident has provoked reaction from human rights activists, who yesterday organized protest demonstrations (in the photo) in Lahore and Islamabad, calling for an end to "tribal practices that in the name of the code of honor" perpetrate violence and abuse "toward women".

The case of the women buried alive came to the attention of the media in Pakistan last August 29, following statements by Sardar Israrullah Zehri, a senator from Balochistan, who defended the practice because it belongs to "our tribal customs". Human rights associations reacted strongly, condemning the senator's words and calling for his immediate resignation.

Protests in the country prompted the local government and the provincial assembly of Sindh to issue a resolution - passed unanimously - condemning the killing of the women, who were buried while still alive, and calling for the punishment of those responsible. The senators are also calling upon the central government to make sure that such crimes "are not repeated in the future".

Sources in the government report that three other sisters (Fauzia, Fatima e Jannat Bibi), were killed following a land dispute, although the victims could total seven in all.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Farid Ahmad - coordinator of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan - stresses that "there is no clear-cut information about the reason of the killing or the number of women killed so far". He affirms, however, that he  issued a detailed report on the death of the five women in the village of Babakot, after which "the federal government decided to open an investigation to shed light on the incident".

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