Pakistani girl killed after photos with boy’s arm around her go viral

The murder is the latest in a spate of more than 5,000 incidents since 2012 in which women have been killed.

Members of Pakistan's civil society hold banners during a protest to condemn the killing of pregnant woman Farzana Parveen, who was stoned to death in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, May 29, 2014. A senior police official in Pakistan said Mohammed Iqbal, husband of the woman stoned to death by her family earlier this week, was arrested for killing his first wife, though the case against him was withdrawn. Iqbal’s second wife was bludgeoned to death Tuesday in the eastern city of Lahore by family members. Iqbal and his wife's lawyer said the family was angry because they wanted her to marry someone else. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Pakistani civil society activists at a protest against femicide [Muhammed Muheisen/AP Photo]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Police in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have arrested a man who allegedly shot his teenage daughter dead last week after photos showing a boy’s arm around her were seen online.

Mukhtar Ahmed Tanoli, district police officer of Kohistan, told Al Jazeera the police had arrested the girl’s father, Arsala, “on charges of killing his own daughter”.

They also arrested the father’s brother and two cousins – who are accused of having planned the murder with Arsala.

Police were informed of the incident on November 24, and retrieved the body of the girl from her home in the Kolai-Palas district of Kohistan, a remote region 350km (217 miles) by road from the capital Islamabad.

According to the police report, photos circulated on Facebook earlier last week showed the girl with a boy, both from Kohistan, with their arms around each other.

Kohistan is an insular, extremely conservative region where local traditions are often enforced through tribal councils known as a “jirgas” which have been known to issue death sentences against women for “violations” of the extreme interpretation of tradition.

In 2012, a video showed five women clapping as two men danced during a wedding ceremony. A local tribal council was called and ordered the killing of those involved in the video.

At least three women in the video were killed.

Six men were convicted and sentenced for life but in 2019, five of them were acquitted on appeal.

Cannot claim a jirga

Tanoli said last week’s murder was different. “We cannot claim this was due to a jirga which may have ordered the killing. That is not what happened here,” he said.

He added that the police believe the viral photos were digitally altered, using images of another couple and that the police had sought help from cybercrime officials at Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency to track down the people behind the image alteration.

Nausher Khan, the father of the 17-year-old boy who had his picture with the murdered girl shared online, says he is not aware of any tribal council ordering the murder, but he fears for his son and family.

“The police have now arrested the father of the girl and her uncle and cousins, but I am afraid the family of the girl will want to seek revenge by killing my boy,” Khan told Al Jazeera. “I have sent him away so he can hide, but I am now worried for my wife and five other children.”

Pakistani rights organisations have raised the alarm against the rampant femicide in the country, with data showing more than 5,000 women killed since 2012.

While the government has acted to strengthen the law against such murders, increasing the punishment to life imprisonment in 2016, the murders have continued.

In its 2022 report, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that there were 384 such murders reported, more than 100 of them from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Source: Al Jazeera