Pakistan's top judge ordered government officials on Monday to submit a detailed report within 15 days over the public flogging of a veiled woman, an incident that incensed the nation.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry gave the directive as eight judges opened a hearing into the case, apparently that of a 17-year-old girl who was caught on an amateur video being whipped face down on the ground.
Government and regional officials from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) should “submit report on a fortnightly basis to the registrar of this court,” the top judge said in his order, written in English.
“The matter requires a detailed probe to locate place of incident, application of law for those involved and if sentence of flogging was awarded lawfully or unlawfully,” he added.
The date of the flogging, the location and the details of the woman's alleged crime have been confused but the footage showed two men pinning her down while a bearded man in a turban flogged her 34 times with a whip.
Girl denies flogging
Government officials, whom Chaudhry ordered to bring the woman before court Monday, instead submitted a written statement they said they recorded from her and her husband denying that they were flogged.
The woman, named in the statement as Chand Bibi, expressed unwillingness to appear before court in the presence of media.
The details of her alleged crime were confused, but residents of Kala Killey village in the Swat valley said the woman was accused of illicit relations with an electrician and forced to marry him.
“Possibility cannot be ruled out that a fake TV material or a video had been prepared with an ulterior motive to malign people of Swat,” said Chaudhry.
“If there is any unlawful order, or provisions of constitution dealing with dignity of human beings are violated, action is required to be taken,” he said.
The judges in court on Monday strongly criticised government officials for dealing with “deteriorating” law and order.