By Robin McDowell
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Islamabad, Pakistan —- A Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by southwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament last week to spare him their outrage.
“These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them,” Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, said Saturday. “Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”
The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.
They were still breathing as their bodies were covered with rocks and mud, according media reports and human rights activists, who said their only “crime” was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing
Zehri told a packed and flabbergasted Parliament on Friday that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers not to make a big fuss about it.
Many stood up in protest, saying the executions were “barbaric” and demanding that discussions continue Monday. But a handful said it was an internal matter of the deeply conservative province.
The incident allegedly occurred one month ago in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district, after the women decided to defy tribal elders and arrange marriages in a civil court, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.