A 16-year-old Pakistani girl was burnt alive on orders of a tribal council only because she helped a friend elope with a man she loved. Unlike, many previous incidents, which happen in far away villages, this sad episode unfolded at a place located at a two-hours drive from the capital – Islambad.
The girl was killed last week and the story surfaced on Thursday only after police said that 15 members of the council, locally known as Jirga, had been arrested.
Police said the honour killing was ordered as punishment for what the council deemed irreparable damage to the village's reputation. The couple appeared to have escaped.
The girl's mother and brother were also arrested as they were present during the meeting and allegedly agreed to the sentence.
Jirgas are often called in Pakistan's northwestern regions as a means of local conflict resolution, but their edicts have no legal standing under Pakistani law.
The girl's mother told police her daughter had helped a couple from the nearby village of Makol elope, in defiance of cultural norms.
"The jirga then took her to an abandoned place outside the village and made her unconscious by injecting her with some drugs," said Wazir.
"Then they seated the girl in a van in which the couple had escaped. They tied her hands to the seats and then poured petrol on her and the vehicle."
The vehicle was set ablaze.
How do we make sense of this 'insanity' ? 16-year-old girl burnt alive as 'punishment' by Abbottabad jirga
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) May 5, 2016
@omar_quraishi that jirga must be hanged
— Mohammad Shiraz Khan (@shirazkhan155) May 5, 2016
"I hadn't seen such a barbaric attack in my whole life," the police officer said.
The incident created an uproar on social media and #Abbattobad (where her village is located) was among the top Twitter trends in Pakistan, however it is unlikely things will change anytime soon.
More than 500 men and women were killed in honour killings in Pakistan last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Many of those crimes were carried out by relatives who say the victims brought shame on the family.
Sadly, this incident comes just two months after Pakistani film maker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won an Oscar for short documentary, which highlights the issue of honour killings in Pakistan.
Very few cases such as these go to court, but among those that do, attackers are often forgiven under a clause of law rooted in Islamic law. Legislation is currently pending at Pakistan's parliament to close the loophole, which many say encourages such attacks.