A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: A young woman stoned to death for having a cell phone after
ruling by a Panchayat

Arifa, a mother of two, has been stoned to death on the orders of
Panchayat (a tribal court) for possessing a cell phone. She was
executed on 11 July in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab
province. The victim was stoned to death by her uncle and relatives on
the orders of Panchayat after she was found to have a mobile phone.

According to media reports her uncle, cousins and other relatives
threw stones and bricks at her until she died. She was buried without
informing anyone. Police registered a First Information Report (FIR)
against the Panchayat but no one has been arrested. She was buried in
a desert far away from her village and nobody (not even her children)
was allowed to participate in the funeral. Her husband is unknown.

Women are often victimized by these illegal judicial systems. This
incident is a demonstration of the strong patriarchal society in
Pakistan, and women are forced to remain in their clutches. Because of
the absence of a proper criminal justice system, the powerful sections
of society have complete impunity when they enforce their will.

The incident is a clear reflection of the total collapse of the rule
of law in the country, where every section of the government has
become utterly redundant in the face of tribal, feudal and religious
traditions. The local police have not arrested the members of the
Panchayat because the power in the area lies with the landed

Stoning to death is a barbaric act from a primitive society. Society
is sent the message that violence is the way to deal with women and
other vulnerable groups. Women’s rights are negated through the use of
these forms of punishment.

Pakistani society has degenerated to the point that, for a woman,
keeping a cell phone has become serious crime. It is treated as a
worse crime than gang rape, murder and bomb blasts, through which many
people are killed on a daily basis.

The Panchayat is an illegal judicial system run by feudal lords and
tribal leaders. It is common in rural areas of Punjab, where landed
aristocracy and centuries old tribal traditions rule. These practices
are commonly used against women so that their tribal norms remain pure
and intact. The Panchayat system is so powerful that the ‘independent
judiciary’ still has not shown the courage to declare it illegal. The
Pakistani judiciary, which got its independence after a people’s
movement of two years, is much more involved in taking cases against
elected government officials in order to keep its popularity in the
media, while failing to introduce judicial reforms at the grassroots
level, which has generated a society without any base on the rule of

What Arifa’s death shows us is the real system of justice in many
parts of Pakistan. Local ruling is done by feudal bodies with complete
impunity. There is no enforcement of the law by the judiciary, police
or any other governing institution. It is more than the absence of the
rule of law; it is an airless vacuum claiming many victims, in which
the police – charged with the duty of enforcing the law – are hired
thugs who torture and detain people at the request of powerful
parties, please see the cases of two sisters, murdered in June 2013,
25 days apart, for daring to ask the courts for justice;

In Arifa’s case, it is those same corrupt police officers who are now
being asked to investigate. Without serious intervention from
government authorities, her case will be treated the same as far too
many innocent deaths have been; uninvestigated, with complete impunity
for the perpetrators.

The Panchayat, Jirga and other illegal ‘judicial systems’ can easily
be used by grudge informers and powerful persons to obtain ‘death
penalties’ to murder whomsoever they want to. Bizarre charges can be
tried and people are executed through these systems. There is rarely
any intervention by the police to stop them because the police, as
mentioned above, play a particular part in the real legal system that
operates in many parts of Pakistan.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the parliament to
legislate against the illegal tribal courts, including the Jirga,
Panchayat and Bradari judicial systems. The government must
immediately investigate and arrest all the members of the Panchayat
for ordering the murder of a woman on the charges of possessing a cell
phone. The senior police officers for the district of Dera Ghazi Khan
should also be prosecuted for aiding and abetting this heinous crime
and neglecting their duty to investigate this case. The upper
judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court of Pakistan, must take
immediate action against illegal and parallel judicial systems and the
killing of innocent people.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional
non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia,
documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional
reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The
Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


Enhanced by Zemanta