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Video of flogged woman draws criticism

PAKISTANI authorities yesterday ordered an investigation into a video showing a man flogging a screaming woman in the country's northwest where the government recently agreed to introduce Islamic law to end a rebellion by Taliban militants.

The government agreed to allow Islamic law in the Swat Valley under a peace deal struck with a hard-line cleric, sparking criticism from activists who are worried extremists will violate basic human rights, especially those of women. The video that emerged yesterday sparked further criticism, although it appeared to have been made before the peace deal was struck in February.

Sherry Rehman, a former information minister and senior ruling party member, called for the men who participated in the public flogging to be punished, saying they had "crossed a red line" and violated the country's constitution.

Regional government officials and those involved in the peace deal said the video, which was widely shown on local television, was part of a conspiracy to sabotage the agreement, which has also been criticized for allegedly creating a haven for Islamic militants.

"It is an old incident and it happened before the peace agreement," said Syed Mohammad Javed, the top government administrator for Swat. "There are some elements who want to sabotage this agreement."

The two-minute video shows a woman in a body-covering burqa face down on the ground with two men holding her arms and feet. A third man in a black turban with a long beard whips her backside repeatedly, causing her to scream repeatedly and shout "Stop it, stop it! It is painful!" A crowd of men watches silently in the background and a voice can be heard saying, "Hold her hands tightly."

It was not exactly clear when the incident took place or who carried it out.

A local Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, said the militant group publicly flogged a woman in Swat nine months ago over allegations that she had an illicit relationship with her father-in-law with whom she was living, but he was not sure if the video showed that incident.


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