Murree - Lying in the middle of the beautiful mountains of Murree and Bhurban are the two villages, Dewal and Ausia, facing each other, with the literacy rate close to 98%.

It was union council of Dewal, the constituency of Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, where recently a girl MS was tortured and burnt by five of her fellow villagers. She succumbed to her injuries on 1st June 2016 at PIMS hospital Islamabad.

On Saturday 11th June, 2016, a special investigation team on behalf of Supreme Court Bar Association - consisting of 3 SCBA senior members Asma Jahangir, Kamran Murtaza and Tehmina Mohibullah along with two media channels - was sent to the locality to find out if the proceedings were fair and the police were playing their role efficiently.

On reaching Murree, it was evident that both the villages were in a state of conflict and there was an ongoing rift after this incident.

The victim MS after suffering painfully had now become the victim of some serious accusations. Some of the villagers even said that it was not a murder, but a suicide.

“MS was an obedient child and she was happy in her life. She had no reason to commit a suicide,” said her family. They also said that the influential people of the area have been exerting pressures on the family to drop the charges and enter into the deal of compensation by receiving money. MS has 4 other younger sisters and her family is afraid they might cause them harm too, as they have already received threats.

In police statement before her death, MS had mentioned the names of two people, of whom one was a school principal Master Shaukat. The two are in police custody, although the rest of the three, she had said, she did not recognise.

Master Shaukat, a reputable man of his area, aged almost 60 years, was the principal of a private school where MS used to teach 8 months ago. It is said by the locals that the principal was impressed by her teaching qualities and wanted her to continue teaching in his school and ever since MS left his school, the number of students dropped down significantly.

MS stopped teaching at the school because the Shaukat’s son, who was already married, was interested in marrying her. And she would get to hear all sorts of nasty remarks from the fellow teachers in the school. Master Shaukat brought the proposal and when MS’ family refused, it hit the principal’s ego and he insulted her father in the main bazaar in front of everyone.

The very next day after this clash, the incident of torturing and burning MS took place.

“I cannot say it out loud, in front of the whole village, but MS also told me that they raped her before burning her and she knew she wouldn’t survive but she demanded justice till her last breath,” said her father in tears. “I cannot leave the house or go to work. How am I supposed to feed my family in such circumstances? I am a mechanic and I can’t sit at home for long.”

The next stop was Phagwari Police Station where the case was registered. There was no one to attend the matter in the police station and after a short wait, when the policeman did appear in civil clothing he seemed to be taking sides with the suspect saying: “You tell us what the father of a burnt girl would do first? Take her to the hospital and be with her or leave her there and come rushing to the police station?”

Master Shaukat’s family also came up with very contradictory statements; they couldn’t decide if it was a feud over money that father of MS had taken as a loan from Master Shaukat or whether it was a secret affair with Shaukat’s son that compelled her to commit suicide. But the whole village of Ausia was adamant that Shaukat could never commit such a gruesome murder, since he was a reputable man.

From there, the last destination was Murree Police Station where Shaukat was held in custody, but the police told us that he was taken to Rawalpindi the same morning for DNA tests. Upon inquiring they also said that the investigation was moving fast, the forensic teams are doing their job and the polygraph tests have also been taken in Lahore. “The case is running under the strict orders of CM Punjab and hopefully the justice will be served,” said a police officer in Murree. 

   –The writer is a freelance contributor.

zubaria jan