Two Pakistani teenagers who tried to elope were brutally murdered by relatives with electric shocks last month as an "honor killing" in the southern port city of Karachi, police confirmed.
The tribal boy and girl accused of falling in love with each other were declared by the local tribal council, or jirga, as a symbol of “dishonor” on the Pashtun community. The bodies will be exhumed for postmortem examinations on Wednesday, according to Aman Marwat, a police officer on the case.
Jirgas are often convened, particularly in conservative rural areas, to settle local disputes especially between poor families. Although they operate outside the law, their rulings of prompt justice, based on centuries-old traditions, are often honored by local officials.
On the orders of the influential tribal council, the teenage girl was murdered first, and the boy was killed the next day. The bodies were buried secretly at night and no funerals took place.
The 15-year-old girl, identified as Bakht Taj, allegedly tried to elope with the 17-year-old boy, identified as Rehman. The couple belonged to the tribal Mohmand clan originally from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where Pakistan's army has fought to contain an Islamist militant insurgency that has spread across the northwest during the past several years.
“The innocent souls were tied to a charpai (rope bed) and given electric shocks,” Marwat said. He arrested the two fathers and two uncles and is pursuing some 30 members of the jirga who have gone into hiding.
Senior police superintendent Rao Anwar said investigators learned about the dual murder through an informant. Police arrested the fathers and some relatives of both teens.
The suspects confessed and revealed that a jirga was involved in declaring death sentences for both the victims, Anwar said.
People involved in the killings kept them secret, but the information reached investigators weeks later, triggering a police raid.
“The girl’s side had agreed but not the jirga and they warned that if the two families did not carry out the barbaric deed, their family in their village back home would have to bear the consequences,” said Zia Ur Rehman, a Pakistani journalist who first reported on the case.
Pakistan is regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman, with 2014 research finding that each day six women were kidnapped, four were murdered, four were raped and three killed themselves.
More than 1,000 women and girls in the country are murdered in “honor killings” each year, but conviction rates are close to zero, according to the Aurat Foundation, a human rights group. The true figure is probably higher since many cases go unreported.
The series of gruesome honor killings in Pakistan reached a climax after the deaths of British beautician Samia Shahid and the controversial social-media celebrity Qandeel Baloch. Considered Pakistan's version of Kim Kardashian for her sexualized femininity and pursuit of fame, the 25-year-old Baloch allegedly was strangled by her brother in July last year in the city of Multan after posting provocative pictures of herself online.
In October of last year, Pakistan's parliament passed legislation that tightened punishments on honor killings, which will now carry the death penalty. For the first time, DNA evidence from the victim and perpetrator will be permitted.