Updated Monday Sep 18 2017
The small, and otherwise ignored, Maula Madad graveyard in the eastern Landhi area of Karachi has had the neighbourhood talking. It is not unusual for residents to see a gathering of police officers descend, unannounced, in the locality. In the past few years this area was teeming with militants. But this time the men in uniforms have set camp near two unmarked graves.
The two graves of interest belong to a teenage couple, from the Safi sub-clan of Mohmand tribe. Both were killed mercilessly, by their own kin, on the orders of a tribal Jirga.
The event unfolded on the night of August 14. Bakht Jan, 15, daughter of Hikmat Taj, had attempted to run away with her boyfriend, Ghani Rehman, 17, son of Muhammad Afzal. The teenagers did not succeed. The two were soon located and brought back home. That night the two fathers then agreed to have them married. In order to avoid any prospects of revenge from Taj’s family, the boy’s father agreed to hand over two more daughters in Swara, a practice of offering young girls as compensation to settle disputes.
Even though both the families had reached an agreement, a Jirga still gathered the next day, during which one elder, Sartaj Khan, insisted that the other members reject the families’ decision and instead pass an order to have the teenagers killed. “They must die for the honour of the tribe and to serve as a lesson for our children,” Khan announced, recalls an onlooker present that day.
Khan, like most of the Mohmand tribesmen in Karachi, ran a small business of construction materials in Sherpao Colony, a mile from the graveyard. “He is also a close relative of Omar Khalid Khurasani, which might be why the families were forced to follow his orders,” another participant tells Geo.tv. Khurasani is a notorious commander of a faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Recently, Khan’s nephew was picked up by intelligence agencies that suspected his involvement in terrorism related incidents.
On the Jirga’s orders, the father and uncle drugged the girl before killing her with electric shocks. The next day the boy’s father did the same. Both the youngsters were buried secretly in the cover of the night.
The Jirga elders also warned the families of dire consequences if they leaked the incident to the media or the police. Yet, despite the threats, a week later a local informer alerted the police to the murders. “Since this area was a former stronghold of the Taliban militants, various law enforcement agencies have a constant network of local informers,” says a police officers, who asked not to be named, “that is how we found out about the gruesome killings.”
So-called honour killings are not uncommon in Pakistan, which mostly target women who relatives believe have dishonoured the family. Last October, parliamentarians passed the Anti-Honour Killing Bill in an attempt to tackle the crime. Yet this year, to date, there have been 45 cases of honour killings in the country, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Four people, including the fathers of the dead couple, have been arrested in Karachi. Khan is still on the run. “According to our information, he was in Buner two weeks ago and now in Rawalpindi with one of his relatives,” another Mohmand community elder told Geo.tv.
Amanullah Marwat, a Station House Officer, also corroborated the information, “We have leads that he may be in Rawalpindi.”
On Wednesday, the bodies were exhumed for an autopsy under the supervision of a district magistrate and a medical team. The ensuing report confirmed that the couple was electrocuted to death as well as bore marks of torture on the hands, shoulders and legs.
“The electric current was of such high voltage that it seared through her flesh, ripping apart muscles and tendons in her arms, and impacted her heart with such deathly force that it brought on an instant cardiac seizure,” Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi, the Additional Police Surgeon, told Geo.tv. “In all my years of service this may be the first time I have seen such brutality in a case of honour killing.”