Pakistan’s newly re-instated chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has called a court hearing into a video in circulation showing the public flogging of a teenage girl in the northwestern Swat Valley, where a peace-for-sharia deal has been brokered with local Taliban leaders. He has ordered top officials from North West Frontier Province to appear and produce the girl, who is shown in the video being held down by two men while a third hits her with a strap as she cries out in pain.
Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the video is being circulated to hurt the public impression of the Taliban. “This is highly regrettable. The video is nine months or a year old but it was published only today,” he said. “The question is why is there not also a video of men being punished by the Taliban?”
(Do the Taliban flog men? If they did, would this justify them flogging women?)
“This video is a conspiracy against sharia and Islam and this conspiracy touches the highest peaks of the sky,” Muslim Khan charged. (Australian Broadcasting Corp, April 6)
(That’s funny, just two days ago, we were told the video was shot in January.)
The girl in the video, apparently identified as Chand Bibi, reportedly told the judge of a qazi or Islamic court and Divisional Commissioner Syed Mohammad Javed that the flogging incident had never happened. North West Frontier Province information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain also said Chand Bibi had expressed her inability to appear in the Supreme Court, as she and her family felt it was not appropriate for a purdah-observing Pashtun girl to do so before TV cameras and onlookers. “She requested the judge and the commissioner to spare her from appearing in the court in Islamabad,” he said.
(Or has she been threatened?)
Meanwhile, the man who filmed the flogging, identified only as Shaukat, said that the incident occurred about two weeks ago. Shaukat told Pakistan’s Dawn News that the treatment meted out to the girl was actually a “punishment” for her refusing a marriage proposal from a Taliban militant. Asked about the reaction of the people who had witnessed the incident, Shaukat said the people in Swat are so scared that no one has the courage to stand up and speak out against the Taliban and their verdicts. (Times of India, April 6)
(That’s what we thought.)