PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered police and government officials to fly to a mountain village to investigate whether four women were killed for clapping and singing as men danced at a wedding.
Footage of the wedding, filmed on a mobile phone, appeared on television stations recently.
A brother of the men who were dancing told journalists that a tribal council ordered the killings because the women violated tribal honor in the remote northern village of Gizar Alitray.
“I say this under oath, I swear it, the girls have been killed under orders from a tribal court. They were killed on May 30. I fear for my life, for my brothers,” Afzal Khan told reporters outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The case has focused attention on honor killings in Pakistan, a largely conservative Muslim country.
Families or tribes often take justice into their own hands. Gatherings of elders hand down punishments that include the rape or killing of women for crimes including falling in love with a man deemed inappropriate, or besmirching family honor. Fraternizing and dancing between men and women is frowned upon.
Almost 1,000 women were killed in the name of honor in the South Asian nation last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Activists say the actual number is much higher as a majority of cases go unreported.
Government officials, from Interior Minister Rehman Malik, to regional police officers and administrators, said they had no knowledge of any such killings in the village of Gizar Alitray. But local officials have so far failed to provide proof that the women are still alive.
“So far, according to our information, nothing like this has happened,” Malik told reporters. “The chief justice is right, though, if the women are alive, produce them.”
In the grainy video, two boys dance as four women sing and clap while sitting. No frame shows the men and women together, raising the possibility the video was doctored.
The Supreme Court told officials if they believed the women were alive, they should go to the village, by helicopter if necessary, and find them.
Officials attempted to reach Gizar Alitray but bad weather forced them to land in another village.
“Our helicopter is stuck here. We will try to go there again tomorrow morning,” one of the officials, Khalid Umarzai, told Reuters by telephone.
Additional reporting by Qasim Nauman in ISLAMABAD; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Rosalind Russell