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Pakistani Man Seeks Justice, Resolution for Family’s Honor Killing

March 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News has the story of a Pakistani man fighting for justice and against the caste system after the murder of his wife and two children by her family.
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: For those stations not taking a pledge break, we have the story of a Pakistani man seeking justice for the murder of his family. Jonathan Rudman of Independent Television News reports — and a warning: some of the story’s details may be distressing.

JONATHAN RUDMAN, Independent Television News: Atisham Ohak is going back to the home he has avoided for almost a year to the house where he lived with his wife and two children.

The walk up the stairs is agonizingly hard because inside and stacked on a single shelf is all that is left of his family.

Atisham finds his children’s blankets, his wife’s handbag, her pots and pans, covered in dust.

Her name was Nargis. They had fallen in love after he had given her a ride in his taxi. And they were blissfully happy until she was found dead in a field, stabbed, shot, beaten and strangled.

Their children were killed first and there’s a simple dignity now in doing up their buttons, the buttons of a four-year-old boy and a baby girl, who were thrown from the roof of a building while their mother was forced to watch.

The last time he saw his children was when he took them to the shops for a packet of crisps. Then his wife received a phone call. It was urgent. Her mother was sick and dying. She had to rush to the bedside.

It was a lie. Nargis’ family disapproved of her marriage to a mere driver and they were luring her into a trap. When Nargis didn’t come home, her husband went back to driving a minibus to distract himself from the worry. His passengers saw photographs of his murdered family in the newspapers as he was driving. He didn’t have a clue that the family they were telling him about was his.

ATISHAM OHAK: They were saying, “Look at these photos. Look at these poor people. I wonder who these unlucky people are?” I turned around and wondered who they were. I looked, but I could not recognize them, because their faces were so badly disfigured.

JONATHAN RUDMAN: Nargis was murdered near her hometown of Mardan. It looked like a so-called honor killing, and her family were the prime suspects. But instead of seeking justice, Pakistani police arrested Atisham and his two brothers, who say they were tortured for four months.

ATISHAM OHAK: The police told my brothers, “We know you didn’t do the murders. Just give a statement against your brother, Atisham, saying he did it.”

JONATHAN RUDMAN: Last year, this court released Atisham and his brothers after a judge agreed they had been framed. His dead wife’s own mother is now on trial, along with her brother, uncle and aunt. But her husband fears the family has paid bribes so that the case will never be heard.

It’s almost a year since the murders now, yet there have been no funerals. Atisham is still looking for the bodies of his family.

At the local cemetery, he can find no graves with their names on. But the gravedigger does remember a hasty burial and how he dug a hole for a mutilated woman and two small children right here.

Atisham pulls back the grass by hand. He has found his adored wife, Nargis, his baby girl, Alisha and his little boy, Shyam. He uses a simple brick to mark the spot where he says his wife’s family covered up their terrible crime.

Atisham wants a moment alone. But it’s too noisy here to think. This is no place to reflect on the murder of his wife or of his children, hurled from a rooftop in front of her.

Can you remember how you felt at that moment, when you were clearing the grass of this unmarked grave?

ATISHAM OHAK: I’ve still not built the graves properly because I still can’t believe it’s really them. He said it was them, that this was the woman who was slaughtered.

This was the little girl who had stab wounds her and the marks of being hit by an ax. And this was the boy with marks on his body. But I did not see them in the coffins myself. So I cannot believe these are the graves of my children and my wife.

JONATHAN RUDMAN: Atisham told me his wife had been killed because she had disgraced her rich family by marrying a poor man like him. He carries photocopies of her letters — over 70 of them — full of the desperation of forbidden love.

ATISHAM OHAK: I love you very, very, very, very, very, very much. I miss you. I miss you very much all the night and day. ‘Bye.

JONATHAN RUDMAN: Back in his old home, this was the moment he dreaded most, sorting through his children’s abandoned toys. In a neighborhood now too painful to stay long.

ATISHAM OHAK: The shop where my children used to go.

It’s very difficult to walk around that area.

My children used to play in those streets a lot.

JONATHAN RUDMAN: And he’s talking to me, he says, because it’s his only hope of getting his family’s killers jailed.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United Nations estimates that more than 5,000 women and girls around the world are killed by family members each year.