The teenage girl who was filmed being flogged by the Taliban in Pakistan's restive Swat valley has denied that the incident ever occurred in a statement made to government officials, media reports said on Monday.
Chand Bibi, the 17-year-old girl who was shown being held down by three men while a fourth flogged her, reportedly told the judge of a Qazi or Islamic court and Divisional Commissioner Syed Mohammad Javed on Sunday that such an incident had never happened.
The incident was condemned in Pakistan and around the world and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered an inquiry into it after TV channels last week aired the video of the girl being flogged.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry too took suo moto notice of it and directed the interior secretary and other officials to appear before him to give an explanation.
North West Frontier Province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told The News daily that Chand Bibi had made a statement to the two officials who visited her village of Kala Killay in Kabal sub-division yesterday.
Quoting the divisional commissioner, Hussain said the girl made it clear she was married to a man named Adalat Khan. She refuted reports that both of them were flogged by the Taliban as punishment for having "illicit relations" and then forcibly married.
Hussain also said Chand Bibi had expressed her inability to appear in the Supreme Court as she and her family felt it was not appropriate for a purdah-observing Pashtun girl to do so in the presence of TV cameras and onlookers.
"She requested the judge and the commissioner to spare her from appearing in the court in Islamabad," he said, adding the two officials visited the village to record the statements of the couple on the directive of the NWFP chief secretary.
The incident caused outrage in Pakistan where civil society and rights activists organised protests across the country. The incident was also condemned by most political parties and religious scholars.
Chand Bibi's husband said he was ready to appear in the Supreme Court. The Qazi court judge also recorded his statement and he too denied reports that he or his wife had been lashed by the Taliban.
Hussain claimed a fake video had been used to tarnish the reputation of the people of Swat and to disrupt the peace process in the area. "We condemn the acts of repression against women...But the incident depicted in the videotape never took place in Swat," he said.
He claimed the videotape was released as "part of a conspiracy to foil the peace agreement in Swat and put pressure on President (Asif Ali) Zardari not to sign" a regulation for implementing Islamic law in the region.
Meanwhile, the man who filmed the Taliban flogging Chand Bibi has said that the incident occurred about two weeks ago. Shaukat told Dawn News that the treatment meted out to the girl was actually a "punishment" for her refusing a marriage proposal from a militant.
The man who proposed to marry Chand Bibi joined the Taliban after the rejection and this was how he took revenge on the girl, Shaukat said.
Asked about the reaction of the people who had witnessed the incident, Shaukat said the people in Swat are so scared that no one has the courage to stand up and speak out against the Taliban and their verdicts.