Pakistan: Taliban militants abduct and behead two women on suspicion of 'immoral activities' Print E-mail
 Pakistan ~~ September 09, 2007 Sunday Sha'aban 26, 1428

Two women beheaded in Bannu by militants

By Javed Aziz Khan

Scroll down to read editorials on this outrageous misogyny

PESHAWAR: Unidentified killers beheaded two women accused of prostitution in Bannu and dumped their bodies in a canal in Moomandkhel on Friday.

The women, in their mid-40s, were kidnapped while on way back from a local hospital on Thursday. "Three armed men intercepted an auto-rickshaw near Sokri Gate and picked up Moeena and Maliki, while the third woman, Bazpari alias Rashida, ran away," District Police Officer Dar Ali Khattak told The News by the telephone from Bannu.

Early on Friday, the beheaded bodies of the two women were recovered from a canal. A note, which carried a message of local militants, was left near the corpses. The murderers accused the women of involvement in flesh trade in collaboration with local authorities.

"All males and females running brothels, including the one who escaped on Thursday, are warned to wind up their ugly business or they would meet the same fate," the message threatened. According to Khattak, the note was written in Urdu language.

AFP adds: Dar Ali Khattak said investigations were under way but it appeared that local militants were responsible. "It is the first ever murder case where women were beheaded by suspected militants," he added.

 Pakistan ~~ September 09, 2007 Sunday Sha'aban 26, 1428


Women: the new target

THE beheading of two women accused of ‘immoral’ activities in Bannu has shocked us beyond belief. Apart from the implications this episode has for the safety and esteem of women in our society it also has a frightening dimension ­ in respect of the war on terror. With Islamic militancy gathering strength in the tribal areas and beyond, the kidnapping and execution of security officials and ‘informers’ by the Taliban no longer shocks people as such incidents previously did. Be it the outcome of faulty government policies, the shaky morale of the armed forces or even the zeal of the militants, such incidents are taken as the natural corollary of a conflict between government forces and armed men wedded to an extremist ideology. But the case of the two women shows that the religious extremists are actively expanding the arena of war to arrogate to themselves the custodianship of public morality as perceived by them. Beside the horror and savagery of the deed itself, one feels rage and revulsion fuelled by frustration.

Unfortunately, the question ­ ‘how dare they?’ ­ can only be answered upon close introspection of ourselves as a society that wears religion on its sleeve, regards women as inferior beings and whose ideas of “right” and “wrong” stem not from the basic fundamentals of humanity but from sanctimonious notions of individual and collective morality. Notwithstanding all the talk about democracy that one hears nowadays, it is a pity that there is no expression of public outrage when such horrendous actions come to light. Clothed in the mantle of faith, our leaders have chosen to discard the universal principles of liberty and justice. Instead they have been swamped by orthodox interpretations of faith, used as an instrument of fear and political repression by the religious lobby. It is no wonder that those reared, nurtured ­ and brutalised ­ by the champions of a society based on religious injunctions have taken on the role of judge and jury, perceiving with contempt all those who do not share their views.

What is disturbing is that in this bizarre situation the institutions of state have abrogated their responsibilities vis-à-vis the citizens. Even a large section of society which holds women in contempt, has shown no anger. Where are our politicians? Will they shake off their misogynist moorings and chastise those who show utter lack of tolerance or will they act as apologists for the criminals, calling into question the issue of the victims’ ‘morality’? Will any of them condemn the act as a grave violation of the right to life and liberty or will they maintain a stony silence as the public and media debate the trivial question of whether or not the two women were indulging in ‘immoral’ activities? Will the Supreme Court, in keeping with its newfound trend of taking suo motu notice, take note of the crime? Unfortunately, when we talk of creeping Talibanisation in the country, we do not recognise that it is our lack of courage to take a holistic and humanistic view of reality that is leading us into a blind alley, while providing a fertile ground for the seeds of extremism. In other words, we have only ourselves to blame.
 Pakistan ~~ September 09, 2007 Sunday Sha'aban 26, 1428


A reprehensible act

The beheading of two women in Bannu, allegedly because they were involved in "immoral" activities is shocking and reminds one of the infamous Salem witch trials of 17th century North America where dogma was used to target and burn at the stake women whose actions did not conform to the boundaries set for them by a conservative and rigid society. Those behind the beheadings are sadly mistaken if they think that they, by brutally killing a person without trial, are acting in a pious and virtuous manner – if anything they are afflicted with a perverse mind themselves and acting no different than beasts. To say that the beheadings require a swift response from the government in that such mercenary acts by extremists have to be checked and those behind the murders caught and punished is to say the obvious. This is in fact the least that one expects from the authorities. The women were reportedly abducted by local militants for allegedly being involved in prostitution. The militants, of which there is no dearth now in certain parts of the country, have taken upon themselves to enforce a rigid version of the Sharia. However, what they did with these two women is nothing short of deliberate and pre-meditated murder. That they should act with impunity, and that too in a district which is the home of the NWFP chief minister, speaks volumes of the government's inability to act against such marauding vigilantes. Till now, the normal targets were music and CD shops and there was little or no loss of life. This was followed by lethal attacks on NGO workers and a female social worker some months ago and she too was killed. Had the government acted against these militants at that time and not been ambiguous and uncertain in its response to the growing Talibanisation of the region, perhaps the gruesome act of beheading two women would not have taken place.

In fact, one can also draw parallels with what happened in Bannu and the abduction of women by the Lal Masjid vigilantes some months back. The only difference is that those women, also alleged to be involved in "immoral activities" were released after being forced to 'acknowledge' their so-called misdeeds. The women who were abducted in Bannu were obviously not as lucky. What will happen next. Will any woman who is seen walking without a veil or talking to man be a legitimate target for abduction and eventual beheading by these militants? It should also be remembered that the perception or understanding of what constitutes immoral behaviour is by no means uniform in Pakistani society.

But that is still beside the question, which is: what gives the right to anyone to label a woman a 'prostitute' and then proceed to take away her life? One isn't living in the Dark Ages, despite the wishes of some in society to push Pakistan to that era. And there is a head of state who never tires of saying that extremism in the country needs to be tackled head on and that the whole nation needs to support him on this. Unfortunately, it is the government itself which often fails to come good on this, usually falling short of taking the fight to the extremists. The result is before us – parts of the country, especially FATA and some settled districts of NWFP adjacent to the tribal areas falling under the influence of the militants who go about forcing others to live according to their own rigid version of Sharia. The militants do not have any altruistic motives, they rather want political power, which is what they will continue to see grow as long as the government fails to act and apprehend those behind such moral policing and vigilante acts.