Murree teacher’s death was ‘not suicide’ ISLAMABAD: A two-member Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) fact-finding mission on Wednesday blamed flawed investigation for the rise in ‘honour’ killings and other crimes against women.
“Flawed investigations encourage crimes against women and this is one of the reasons that honour killings are on the rise; where the accused finds much sympathy amongst those involved in the criminal justice system at the subordinate judiciary,” deplored the mission, consisting of two former SCBA presidents, Asma Jahangir and Kamran Murtaza. SCBA President Barrister Ali Zafar constituted the mission soon after the death of 19-year-old schoolteacher Maria Sadaqat from Murree, who died from burn injuries at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad on June 1 for allegedly refusing a marriage proposal.
The mission was set up to assess whether an independent and neutral investigation was being conducted into the crime or not. This step was taken in the backdrop of media reports that indicated a rise in the number of crimes against women, particularly killings in the name of ‘honour’.
The mission was also supposed to form an opinion over whether the killing of a woman follows a pattern where the victim’s character is vilified, the family is put under pressure and the investigation suffers because of external influences.
Police investigations, however, concluded that Maria’s death was a case of suicide and not murder, and later declared the main accused innocent, after which he was also granted bail.
On Wednesday, Ali Zafar, Asma Jahangir and Kamran Murtaza brushed aside police reports that claimed the victim had committed suicide, saying she was murdered since her entire body, except her hands, feet and face, were burnt.
Speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court building, the mission, which visited UC Dewal in Murree, they said they met local government chairman Ejaz Abbasi, who was also the victim’s neighbour. Mr Abbasi explained that the first part of the human body to be burnt in a self-immolation attempt would be the hands. The victim’s statement that she had been held to the ground by four men seemed to be the explanation for her hands, feet and face being saved from burning.
In the 40 hours that the victim was alive, she consistently accused Master Shaukat and his accomplices of setting her on fire, the mission noted.
“We have recommended that the SCBA president nominate a competent trial lawyer to follow the case on behalf of the victim’s family and that the case should be pursued to the end,” Ms Jahangir maintained.
The mission noted that the pattern of suicides committed by women was completely different; nobody would burn themselves to death, adding that there were easier ways to commit suicide.
They were also dismayed by the deep division in society: though the women are in full sympathy with the victims, the men are either justifying the crime or denying it totally, Ms Jahangir deplored, adding there was a concerted effort to paint the incident as a suicide rather than a murder.
The mission noted a character assassination campaign against the victim and her family, saying there were credible reports that the family was being threatened and induced to accept a reward for their silence.
The team also expressed disappointment over the role of the doctors who did not discharge their duty in taking down the victim’s statement and gave no statement to the police corroborating her claim, Ms Jahangir added.