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Pakistani Girl, 12, Killed In Latest 'Honor Killing'

Human rights groups say that honor killings are still widespread in Pakistan.
Human rights groups say that honor killings are still widespread in Pakistan.

A 12-year-old Pakistani girl was killed by her family after she eloped with a boy, according to accounts by villagers and officials in the northwestern tribal district of Khyber.

Local official Niaz Muhammad told RFE/RL on June 30 that the girl, named Naghma, left her house in Kadey village on June 23 before being stopped by security officials.

Muhammad said Naghma was handed over to her family, who promised she wouldn’t be harmed.

But the official said the girl was then killed, most likely on June 27, in what he described as an "honor killing" over perceived damage to the family's honor.

Muhammad said authorities have detained some of the alleged killers and others involved in the gruesome murder.

“They did not respect the guarantees they’d made, and they killed the girl," he told Radio Mashaal. "We’ve arrested the uncle and his son, and we also arrested the brothers of the boy [that Naghma had eloped with].”

A local resident said Naghma was shot dead.

Hundreds of so-called honor killings are reported across Pakistan every year. A lack of rule of law and a monopoly of powerful figures such as feudal lords, tribal leaders, and clerics often help perpetrators cloak such killings in the name of “honor.”

In the absence of government protection, women are particularly vulnerable. They make up a majority of victims and are mostly murdered following accusations of sexual misconduct or other behavior perceived as inappropriate.

Earlier this year, campaigners in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which abuts the tribal areas, reported an increase in honor killings.

Campaigners say most cases involve close relatives, who often claim they committed the crime to protect their family's honor.

Zar Ali Afridi, a human rights activist in Khyber, told Radio Mashaal that a 12-year-old girl should have been protected under the juvenile law. The 16-year-old legislation guarantees the rights of children involved in criminal litigation.

"[Khyber and the rest of] the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are still being run by a British-era legislative regime called the Frontier Crimes Regulations, which prevents officials from paying attention to the rights of children," he told Radio Mashaal.

The murder is now expected to spark a seemingly unending family feud. A local source told Radio Mashaal that Naghma's uncle has demanded the family of the boy to hand him over. The sources said they, too, are likely to meet the same fate as Naghma if their families comply.

Coverage of the murder in the Pakistani media has, however, prompted senior officials to take notice.

On June 30, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, who also serves as the chief executive of the tribal areas, ordered Khyber's administration to send him the results of an in-depth investigation.

Daud Khattak is the senior editor of Radio Mashaal.