A gory video that shook Pakistanis

6 April 2009 by Abdul Khaliq

Taliban in Swat awarded punishment of public flogging about 25 times to men and twice to women during the past two years as they consolidated their control in the valley and established their own courts.

The chilling videotape of a 17-year old girl being flogged by Taliban in public, shown by TV channels in Pakistan on April 4, shook the entire country. The inhuman treatment meted out to women in tribal areas of Pakistan has been a routine and documented often, but this video commands immediate and complete attention. The whole world had seen the video on the Internet before it was shown on TV channels.

The video has got the attention of even Chief Justice of Pakistan, who, taking suo motto notice, had ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident. The canning of the 17-year-old girl, who according to certain accounts was 16, shown by television channels, was reportedly filmed secretly by someone with a mobile phone.

Whosoever did it, risked his life. It is also learnt through media reports that the Taliban in Swat awarded punishment of public flogging about 25 times to men and twice to women during the past two years as they consolidated their control in the valley and established their own courts. The area is a candid example of state within state.

According to media reports the recent brutal incident was occurred in the village Kala Killay, Tehsil Kabal, District Swat where the Taliban publicly lashed a girl named Chand (Moon) for stepping out of house with a man who was not Mehram. (Mehram is an Arabic word, which means non-relative. Women can only give company to Mehram (father, brother and husband). Except these male relatives all other male members are non-mehram for a young woman).

The 3-minute video shows two bearded Talib gripping the hands and legs of the girl while another turbaned Talib is flogging the girl. These local Taliban awarded the punishment of 40 lashes to the girl after getting verdict from a Mufti (religious scholar).

Since the airing of the video a wave of anger and condemnation of Taliban has griped the whole country. Rank and file are vetting out at Taliban. Perhaps Americans must be happy with the situation as general masses that were earlier condemning Drone attacks inside Pakistan are now condemning Taliban and terming Drone attacks as befitting answer to atrocities of Taliban.

From Taliban side, giving his response to media Muslim Khan on 4 April, the spokesperson of Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), a local Taliban outfit, acknowledging the incident has defended that the Taliban decision of lashing the girl was absolutely right and according to the just injunctions of Islam. He said the girl was punished for living for three years with her father-in-law (a non-mehram) instead of her husband. But other reports say that the girl was divorced by her husband and her father-in-law in fact gave her refuge.

Muslim Khan said that instead of public lashing the girl should be awarded sentence inside a room. He claimed the two men, who gripped the hands and legs of the girl while being lashed by a bearded and turbaned Talib, were her relatives.

He further said the actual punishment for adultery was stoning to death. However, as there were no Taliban courts at that time, the girl was awarded comparatively soft punishment of 40 lashes, he argued. Without condemning the incident, Muslim Khan said both the man and girl had confessed their ‘crime’. He said the accused man had also been awarded the same punishment.

It is pertinent to mention that Islamic system of justice has been recently introduced in Swat as result of peace agreement between local Taliban and Provincial government of Awami National Party (ANP). Swat is a beautiful valley in the Malakand division in the North East of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan. The Valley has eight administrative districts with about one million population.

Soon after the airing of the video, a hot debate has been triggered among different ideologues, school of thoughts, religious experts and human rights activists. Over 50 TV channels are busy, showing debates and discussions as well as public opinion regarding the incident. It seems the media hype has put the things towards a clear line between secular/progressive forces and fundamentalists/conservative forces within Pakistan. That line is between Human Rights paradigm and Islamic system of Justice.

The position of ANP (a secular party) provincial government is truly awkward. They have just entered into peace deal with Taliban and do not want to see the agreement sabotaged. They are of the view that the video is fake and thus a conspiracy against Pakistan. On the other hand TNSM defending the incident has insisted that it occurred before the peace agreement.

The positions being taken and interpretations being made by islamisists parties, representatives/individuals are not in conformity with globally accepted norms of human rights. Maulana Fazal-ur Reman, the Chief of Jamait-e-Ulma-e-Islam (JUI-F) a mainstream Islamic political party has blamed NGOs that they are making much noise out of nothing. He blamed that NGOs remain unmoved when women and children in tribal and settled areas are killed by drones, fighter jets. Syed Munawar Hassan, the newly elected head of Jamat-e-Islami (JI), another strong Islamic party also refused to condemn the incident and blamed the media for rising hype. He said media avoid to show US Drone attacks but quick to highlight such petty issues.

On the other hand the reaction of the civil society, radical political groups, trade unions as well as conscious citizens is also very clear and bold. Country wide protests are being taken out to condemn the inhuman act of Taliban. They termed the incident barbaric and against the true injunctions of Islam.

Meanwhile public at large has strongly condemned the incident and the ‘so-called’ peace deal struck with the Taliban in Swat. They regretted the government had bargained with elements that did not have any respect for people’s basic rights. Masses are also critical of the role of the media in glorifying the Taliban, and emphasized the need for calling them militants.


Abdul Khaliq

CADTM Pakistan

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