Death for Dancing and Mobile Phones in Pakistan

Pakistan has seen a rapid growth in mobile phones penetration and with it the growing opportunity for people from all corners of society to create and share content using video recording capable mobile phones. The content creation using mobile phones have increased over the years and with the explosion of smart phones it is expected to rise. Creating videos using mobile phone can be spontaneous and explicit but like with all emerging technologies there is the potential for misuse and at times the social repercussion can be colossal especially in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society like Pakistan.

In the past few days reports started to emerge on broadcast news media channels that four women belonging to Seertaiy village of Kohistan among two others have been sentenced to death by a tribal assembly in a remote village of Hazara division for ‘staining the honor’ of their families. The reports featured a video made using a low end mobile phone featuring men and women singing and dancing together at a wedding ceremony, which is still considered as a violation of their tribal law for gender segregation. The video was made public earlier by Mohammad Afzal the elder brother of the accused to sought support to protect his brothers, who had earlier fled the village after being declared perverted by local elders.

The Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan after emergence of the media reports took sou moto notice into the killings of women after being condemned to death by the tribal jirga. The court also instructed the attorney general to find out about the five girls, who were sentenced to death by the local clerics over clapping and singing in a wedding ceremony along with two men and inform the court.

Earlier, the Provincial Governments and District Police Officer (DPO) Kohistan Abdul Majeed Afridi denied that any such incident took place and matter was concocted and was aimed at destroying the peaceful environment in the district. The case was fixed for hearing in the Supreme Court for today and as I am writing this post the brother of the accused, Mohammad Afzal appeared before the court and claimed that the women have been killed by the jirga elders. (More to unfold latter on the issue)

The innovation and growth on the mobile phones front in developing countries like Pakistan is astonishing. Mobile phones have changed the way people produce and consume media. Younger generation participation in creating user generated content is rising and so to its impact on our society. Understanding the social impact of this wonderful technology on Pakistani society can be a very complex and challenging process given the various fabrics of culture, ancient traditions and religion interlinked and woven in to each other. Who could have thought that the spontaneous video made using the mobile phone at a wedding in a small village could have turned in to such a tragic event for the families involved. It is obvious from this case and many others before it that the digital revolution as we call it will play a key role in shaping our present and future society. Its overall impact on a developing Pakistani society/culture remains to be seen though.

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