Pakistan probes 'honour killings' of four women

The women and men were reported to be condemned when video footage showed them singing and dancing at a wedding, as Orla Guerin reports.

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Officials in Pakistan are travelling to a remote north-western region to find out if four women, who apparently sang and watched as two men danced, have been murdered in an honour killing.

Video footage of the men and women, who gathered as part of a wedding celebration, has been widely seen.

Villagers say the women were later killed. Local officials deny this.

The men in the video appeared in court on Wednesday charged with creating conditions for tribal violence.

Local officials not only failed to produce the women in the court on Wednesday but were also unable to produce any proof they were still alive, as directed by the court earlier.

Tribal elders' decree?

The video, first circulated about two months ago, shows four women sitting on the floor of a room, chatting and singing wedding songs while clapping their hands. A fifth woman is said have been an accomplice.

A decree was allegedly issued by tribal elders for them to be killed because it was thought their actions brought dishonour to their community which frowns on men and women fraternising or dancing together.

Also seen in the video are two young brothers, one of whom dances to the sound of the women's song. The other films the video, at one point turning the camera to himself.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that there is no shot of the men and women together, and it is unclear if they were in the same place at the same time.

On Wednesday, the Chief Secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province - where the incident in Kohistan district is alleged to have happened - argued that local custom did not allow women to travel in male company or face questions from male members of a judicial bench.

He said this could lead to local legal complications.

He suggested that a commission be constituted, including officials and human rights activists, to conduct an inquiry in Kohistan and submit its report to the court.

But the court ordered that the women, if they were alive, should be brought to Islamabad.

It suggested that the authorities should take some women activists with them who could provide the Kohistani women with female company during their journey.

The village is at least two days' journey on foot from the nearest highway, and only helicopters can reach the area quickly.

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