Islamabad: Police on Tuesday arrested a cleric accused of sentencing four married women and two men to death for allegedly singing and dancing at a wedding in the remote Kohistan district in northern Pakistan.
The cleric, who was arrested along with a companion, however, denied he had issued any edict against the men and women, officials in Kohistan said.
It had emerged yesterday that a jirga or tribal council had condemned the six persons to death for "staining the honour" of their families by singing and dancing together.
The jirga based its decision on a mobile phone video made at the wedding in Bando Baidar village, about 200 km from Islamabad.
The men fled before the jirga could act against them while the women were locked up in a room.
Elders claimed the men and women had defied tribal customs.
Following his arrest, the cleric submitted an affidavit in a local court that said he would ensure no harm would be done to the women, police said.
The cleric contended in the affidavit that it would be "un-Islamic and unlawful" to kill the women.
After reports about the jirga’s actions appeared in the Pakistani media, the local administration yesterday ordered the detention of eight tribesmen.
These eight men too gave officials a written undertaking that the women would not be harmed, Hazara Division Commissioner Khalid Khan Umerzai told the media.
Umerzai said the video appeared to be "objectionable" but the does not allow anybody to condemn others to death.
Some reports said the incident had arisen due tribal rivalries and an attempt to defame one family.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 943 women and girls were murdered last year after being accused of defaming their family`s honour.
Several rights groups, including Sahara Development Foundation and Aurat Foundation, have urged the government to take steps to protect the six persons condemned by the jirga.
In an editorial, The Express Tribune newspaper expressed concern at Pakistan being "re-tribalised under the influence of growing Talibanisation."
It said: "Tribal law is traditionally without ?due process?. It is called ‘quick justice’, often condoned with the adage ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and wrongly equated with Islamic sharia. What jirga means in essence is a kangaroo court, in which the local influentials satisfy their instinct of vengeance and avarice."