Kohistan jirga: The dirty picture

Published: June 9, 2012

Young girls were put to death after a local jirga declared that their act was highly immoral. DESIGN: S. JAMAL

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words and we all witnessed it when the Swat flogging video was released. Watching an innocent (and unidentified) woman so ruthlessly beaten by a masked Taliban made every Pakistani restless.

This is not surprising given that our women are our ghairat (honour) and nobody has the right to mistreat them. News channels kept running the story over and over; cyber citizens gave it more value by posting it on blogs and all social networking websites; liberal and traditional scholars both heavily condemned the incident.

Then, one fine morning, we came to know that it was a fake video. Since then, there is a big question mark on the authenticity of the incident.

But we humans tend to forget very soon. The other day, every TV channel was airing the video of a wedding ceremony where two young men were dancing and four women were singing and clapping. The news was that these young girls were put to death after a local jirga declared that singing and dancing at a wedding ceremony was a highly immoral act.

The matter is now in the court of law, under the chief justice of Pakistan, who has taken suo moto notice of the incident and ordered that the girls should be produced if they are alive. Whatever be the outcome of the case, my concern lies with the reporting standard again being set by our news media.

Our so-called media intellectuals are deliberately ignoring many questions that still remain answered and it would be hasty to draw conclusions before these mysteries are unveiled.

  1. No TV channel has shown the full video; the full video, which is five minutes and fifty-two seconds, has been edited by TV channels and only part of it is being aired repeatedly. Anyone who watches the full video can see that the wedding ceremony is not established anywhere. It is filmed in a small room with six characters (four girls and two boys). Where are the celebrations? No decorations in the house? No flowers, nothing? And on top of it all, no baraatis?
  2.  How were the girls related to those boys? And why were they together in a room?
  3.  Keeping in view the norms of the society and the restrictions, weren’t they aware of the consequences?
  4. Why was the activity being recorded in the first place?
  5. How did the video reach the jirga? It can’t just fly out of the video-makers phone to someone else’s phone without consent.
  6. By transferring the video, didn’t the boy put his own life and the life of the other five at risk?
  7. What was the actual case presented in the jirga? Was it only clapping and dancing, or was it some other issue?
  8. Due to lack of education, the Kohistanis are prone to extremism and cultural exclusiveness. They have their own definition of ghairat, which might not be in accordance to our values and has nothing to do with religion.
  9. Another aspect is the way of life of people in such areas. There is a general culture of revenge, which sometimes results in murder of whole families. Again, why is this aspect being ignored by the media?

It seems absurd, as to how our most popular news channels and show anchors beat about the bush without realising that journalism’s first obligation is to the truth (read: assemble facts and verify them). At least, this is what we are taught in journalism schools.


Ovais Ahmed Mangalwala

A producer for Express News.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.