LAHORE – The Supreme Court of Pakistan’s action virtually jolted the Punjab police last week after the country’s top judge –Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry– took suo motu notice of reports that a 25-year-old woman was stoned to death on the orders of a Punchayat in Khanewal district.

Besides top police officers, the Punjab chief minister also visited the village and met with the people there to understand what actually had happened. The harder the Supreme Court came down on the police, the faster the provincial hierarchy came into action.

The Multan regional police officer (RPO) was transferred and the Khanewal district police officer (DPO) wad made an OSD. Not enough, the provincial police chief also suspended from service the Khanewal Saddar Circle DSP, Kacha Khoo SHO and Chowki Aaqil Kacha Khoo Police Station in-charge.

The Punjab police heaved a sigh of relief on Saturday after a high-level investigation team noted in its key and final report that Maryam Bibi was never stoned to death on Punchayat orders in Khanewal district; rather, she was strangled by her husband.

The three-member team comprising Additional IG Zulifqar Cheema, DIG Chaudhry Shafique Gujjar and SSP Tariq Nawaz Malik submitted its detailed report to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) after completing thorough investigations.

The top investigators visited the crime scene; interviewed locals, the accused and the criminal; and collected samples for forensic tests. The grave of Maryam Bibi was also exhumed and samples were taken from her body. The psycho physiological truth verification examination of husband of the deceased was also conducted by a polygraph examiner.

The DNA samples confirmed that the woman was strangled by her husband while the operative part of polygraphic report revealed that on the basis of the reactions to the formulated test it was proved that was truthful when he confessed that he had murdered his wife with his own hands. The autopsy of Maryam was conducted and the medical officer opined that “death due to compression of blood vessels due to pressure on the neck.”

According to insiders, the family members of the deceased are filing a petition before the Sessions Court, seeking registration of murder case against father-in-law and mother-in-law of Maryam.

The investigations team has also recommended action against the media outlet that broadcast the news, stating that the news regarding death of Maryam by stoning on Punchayat orders was not based on facts and broadcast without proper verification.

Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC) had directed the federal and provincial governments to take appropriate action within three days against Punjab inspector general police, DIG and other police officers who were involved in the investigations.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the Punjab Police report, the CJP had observed that IGP and other investigation officers did not deserve occupying such important positions meant to protect the fundamental rights and security of the citizens. A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the suo moto case and it was disposed of. 

According to the reports and statements of the complainant, Maryam Bibi was cutting grass at the field of Raja Mehbub, who allegedly pressed her to have illicit relations with him. Upon her refusal, Mehbub ordered his men to ‘teach her a lesson’. The men went to her house and stoned her to death. They had kidnapped Maryam’s husband, Sarfraz.

The police registered a case against nine accused, while the chief justice took a suo motu notice of the incident. The alleged participants of Punchayat were associated with the investigation on July 21, who contended that no such Punchayat was held and they were innocent. The autopsy of Maryam was conducted and the medical officer opined that “Death due to compression of blood vessels due to pressure on the neck.

According to insiders, many police officers were demoralised as they were punished over the crime, which never had taken place.

The incident had also put the credibility of the police department at stake. Police circles say that the country’s supreme judiciary must verify facts before taking suo moto or even prior to ordering action against the government officers. Such actions not only create bad name to the government but to the country as well since the anti-state elements are hell bent upon to defame Pakistan internationally.