- The Washington Times - Monday, April 14, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Women activists in Pakistan are publicly protesting the reported Taliban-style stoning deaths of a couple in a tribal area close to the Afghan border, and are demanding action against the cleric-judge who ordered the executions.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Sherry Rehman joined the chorus of outrage last Monday with a statement condemning “in strongest terms” the way the couple was reportedly killed.

Mrs. Rehman, a close friend and adviser to assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was referring to the stoning deaths of a couple in the Mohmand tribal agency, north of the Khyber Pass.

The agency is one of seven tribal zones making up the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, populated by ethnic Pashtuns.

The couple, identified only as Ms. Shano and Daulat Khan, are said to have been ordered stoned to death by an unidentified “qazi,” or cleric-judge, on March 31.

The Dawn newspaper quoted a spokesman for a Taliban-style militia in the area as saying Ms. Shano was a married woman who was living in Peshawar before she eloped with Mr. Khan.

Her family reportedly complained that Mr. Khan had abducted her, but days later, armed militants who captured them in Nowshera, near Peshawar, accused them of adultery in a tribal court.

The death by stoning sentence appears to have been carried out immediately.

Asma Jahangir, head of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, called the episode “absolutely horrifying.”

“Every Pakistani who believes in the rule of law should condemn such an incident,” she said.

Mrs. Rehman, one of two female ministers in Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s Cabinet, said the new government would take action against those responsible for the “barbaric, gruesome and uncivilized” executions.

The stoning sentence was the first reported case in Pakistan since a similar punishment was handed down in April 2002 in the North West Frontier Province to Zafran Bibi, an illiterate woman from Kohat, after she gave birth to a girl while her husband was serving a jail term.

She said she had been raped by her husband’s younger brother.

Ms. Bibi’s sentence was eventually overturned by the Federal Shariah Court.

On April 5, the Aurat [Women’s] Foundation held a demonstration outside the Peshawar Press Club to protest the latest stonings.

Alefia Hussain, a freelance columnist writing in the Daily Times, said, “Pakistan’s shoddy record of violence against women is replete with cases of stoning to death; this latest incident is certainly not the first of its kind. Such death sentences are routine, in rural, particularly tribal areas, but not many are published.

Ralph Joseph contributed to this article.

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