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Pakistan police arrest suspect in honor killing of 2 cousins

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani man accused of killing his two teenage cousins after a video of the sisters surfaced on social media showing them kissing a man was arrested Wednesday, a local police official said.

The killings took place last week in North Waziristan, a former tribal area that served as a Taliban stronghold until recent years. The video, filmed about a year ago, went viral last week and allegedly angered the sisters’ cousin, who accused them of damaging the family’s honor.

The arrest came following a five-day manhunt launched in the region to find and arrest Mohammad Aslam, who fled after allegedly killing the sisters last week, said Shafiullah Gandapur, a district police chief in North Waziristan.

Police had arrested the man seen in the video kissing the two sisters and he is suspected of posting the video on social media. Gandapur said the video angered the girls' cousin Aslam, who is now accused of shooting the girls dead.

“We are also questioning the father and brother of the two girls to determine whether they played any role in the murder,” he said.

So-called honor killings are a significant issue in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim country where nearly 1,000 women are killed by close relatives each year because of actions perceived as violating conservative norms on love and marriage. The incidents have continued even though the country's parliament in 2016 made legal changes to mandate a 25-year prison sentence for anyone convicted of an honor killing.

Kissing in Pakistan is illegal and couples engaging in such displays of affection are usually detained, only to be released after paying a requested sum of money to avoid charges.

Earlier this month, Pakistan's independent human rights commission in its annual report gave a failing grade to the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, charging that too little was done to protect the country’s most vulnerable, including women and children.

Law enforcement agencies in Pakistan are often corrupt or refuse to take the word of a woman over a man in Pakistan’s deeply male-dominated society. In April, a powerful cleric who has the ear of the prime minister blamed the global coronavirus pandemic on women who dress immodestly. The remarks triggered outrage on social media.

Pakistani authorities have reported over 45,800 cases of coronavirus, including 985 deaths.

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Ahmed reported from Islamabad.

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