Saturday, 3 June 2017

QK Archives: Former Minister Accused of killing daughter

Published by The Friday Times July 2001
Republished not for profit and solely for educational purposes


Iqbal Khattak
says the younger generation is increasingly challenging the strict Pukhtoon code of life for women

The autopsy carried out on the exhumed body of 18-year-old Mahvish, daughter of former PML(N) NWFP minister, Sanaullah Miankhel, has reportedly contradicted the Miankhel family’s claim that the girl had committed suicide. The autopsy report says the girl was killed between April 14 and 24.
Police sources say circumstantial evidence shows it to be a case of honour killing. TFT has learnt that the girl was allegedly in love with the family’s driver and was planning to elope with him. The family was bitterly opposed to her choice.
The girl’s body was exhumed and medically examined on the orders of Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, Governor of the North West Frontier Province. The issue came to light when a newspaper carried a small news item on the girl’s death in mysterious circumstances. A few days later, during a press conference, journalists pointed out to the governor that the case needed to be probed and the government was dragging its feet because the slain girl’s father had joined the Like-minded group, the breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), supported by the government.
Interestingly, after the inquiry was ordered the girl’s family claimed that the first medical report had confirmed that she had committed suicide. However, the family has not made public that medical report or answered the question of why she was buried in such haste.
The NWFP Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Saeed Khan, told TFT that the autopsy report establishes, through circumstantial evidence, that the girl was murdered. “She received a single bullet in her head, which pierced through her neck. The autopsy report has determined that someone fired a shot in the head from the top,” the Frontier IGP said.
The IGP also said that the investigating team was in the process of recording the statements of various people and the high-profile investigation would take some time to complete. Those, who have so far deposed before the investigation team, include the woman who bathed Mahvish before the burial, the man who led the funeral prayers and some female members of the Miankhel family. The IGP, however, refused to give any more details, saying “It’s too early to say anything”.
A forensic expert TFT spoke with said the angle of the shot suggests that the victim was forced to kneel down, execution-style, while someone standing behind her put the gun to her head and fired the shot at a downwards angle.
No one has been directly charged in the First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the district magistrate of Dera Ismail Khan at the Chawdhan Police Station. D I Khan is situated 200 miles south of Peshawar. The unnamed killers have been charged under Sections 302 and 201 of qisas and diyat law and no arrest has been made so far.
Interestingly, following the FIR, Sanaullah Miankhel, the father of the slain girl, and his brothers, former MNA Umer Farooq, and former MPAs Inayatullah Miankhel and Fatahullah Miankhel, secured bails-before-arrest from a lower court in the Swabi district. Similarly, their three cousins — Fakhar Miankhel, Mazhar Miankhel and Samiullah Miankhel — secured bails-before-arrest from the Sargodha district in the Punjab province.
The main character in the drama, the driver Munawar, has refused to speak with the media. His family members told TFT to “leave us alone”.

Munawar’s involvement in the tragic episode came to light after Aurat Foundation, an NGO, sent fact-finding teams to D I Khan following news of the girl’s murder. The AF teams got the details of the case and also met with Munawar. Rakhshanda Naz, resident director of Aurat Foundation, told TFT: “Absolutely. It is a case of honour killing.” She added that her organisation, which advocates women’s rights in the male-dominated Pukhtoon society, would pursue the case until its logical conclusion.
According to details, the Miankhel family, a politically influential feudal family of D I Khan allegedly killed Mahvish between April 14 and 24 after she was taken away from Munawar’s home on the outskirts of Dera. Mahvish had gone to Munawar’s house to plead with his family to let her marry him.

Munawar, in his 40s, is the father of three children. His family is very poor and he used to drive Mahvish to the college. During that period, say sources, the two developed a relationship.

The deeply conservative Miankhel family came to know of the affair in 1999. Munawar was sacked, but the two continued to meet and, shortly before the girl’s alleged murder, were planning to get married. One report says that Sanaullah Minakhel told Munawar in early April to stop seeing his daughter. “Sanaullah also caught Munawar meeting with his daughter after that warning. The driver was beaten up and handed over to the police, which registered a theft case against him under section 475,” says a source.
Meanwhile, Mahvish left her home for Munawar’s and sought his family’s permission for marrying him. But the family would not agree because they were not prepared to face her family’s wrath, say sources. She was finally handed over to her parents, who took her away to their native town of Garah Essa Khan, 40 kilometres north of D I Khan, where Mahvish was allegedly murdered by her family. Her mother’s attempts to intervene on her behalf failed.

Mahvish’s death, if it were proved to be a case of honour killing, would be the second such high-profile case after Samia Imran was killed in April 1999. Samia was killed in the office of the famous lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, in Lahore. The person who shot and killed her was a servant of the family and was tasked to murder her after her uncle and her mother had requested Samia’s lawyers to allow them to meet with her. While the killer himself was killed in exchange of fire with Asma’s bodyguard after he had shot Samia, the instigators, Samia’s family, remain at large. Samia had come to Lahore to get a divorce from her husband.
According to a police official, most such accused get acquitted because of insufficient evidence and defective investigation, though this observation does not apply to Samia’s case. “When family members do the killing, it is very difficult to get conclusive evidence because the female members invariably try to save the male members of the family,” Waseem Afzal, a police officer, told a seminar in Peshawar recently.
A professor at the Department of Sociology in the University of Peshawar told TFT that because of the conservative nature of the Pukhtoon society the younger generation is likely to become more frustrated. He predicts further rise in the number of such cases before the social ethos undergoes a change, which will be many years from hence. According to one estimate, the year 2000 saw at least 300 cases of honour killings in the NWFP.
“More than 300 cases of honour killings have been registered in different parts of the NWFP. Mardan district tops the list with 54,” TFT has learnt through data provided by the police department. Statistics reveal that Charsadda district witnessed a total of 42 (registered) honour killing cases.
Meanwhile, the Miankhel family has alleged that the case is politically motivated. Mrs Sanaullah Miankhel, breaking her long silence since her daughter’s tragic death, first rejected the honour killing charge and then accused political rivals of trying to frame the family. “The whole episode is a well-planned conspiracy against the Miankhel family,” she said in her first-ever press statement.
“Political opponents started scandalizing the death of Mahvish,” she said accusing, implicitly, the rival Gandapur family one of whose members is coveting the post of district nazim in the August 2 polls. Some reports say the Miankhel family is likely to withdraw its candidate in the face of growing criticism over the Mahvish case.
Sources close to Miankhel family also say the government began investigating the charge after the Miankhels fell out with the PML(Like-minded) group headed by Salim Saifullah Khan and enjoying the covert support of the government. “In March, during a meeting of the Like-minded, Miankhels were shown to be on board and it was thought that Sanaullah Miankhel would be given an important office within the faction. However, that did not happen when differences appeared between Salim Saifullah and Sanaullah Miankhel,” says a source close to the family.

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