NEW DELHI: Authorities in Pakistan have arrested members of a tribal council in Abbottabad’s Makol district, after a girl was strangled and burnt to death for helping one of her friends elope.

Ambreen Riasat, 17, was drugged and strangled before her body was set on fire in a mini bus on the orders of the village's tribal council. Police reports say that the council members tied Riasat's body to the seats of the Suzuki mini bus that the couple had used to elope, before setting the vehicle on fire.

"We have arrested 13 people from the council and the victim's mother," local police chief Khurram Rasheed told Al Jazeera."The mother of the victim was arrested because she was involved in the decision making and also because she handed her daughter to the members of the council.”

The couple that eloped have been tracked and are in a safe place.

(Police have arrested tribal council members. Photo credit: CNN)

‘Honour killings’ remain a major problem in Pakistan, where village tribal councils often object to marriages that defy conventional pairing. According to Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, about 1100 women were killed by relatives in the country in the last year alone.

The widespread problem gained international attention after a documentary on the subject won an Oscar this year. In February, director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's film, “A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness” won in the best documentary short category.

The documentary is the story of 19 year old Saba Qaiser -- who miraculously survived drowning in a river after having been shot in the head. Unsurprisingly, those who tried to finish her off were none other than her own relatives her father and uncle as happens in most such cases of 'honour'crime.

The film, however, is not just the story of a brave girl who defied death and is now living happily with the man she loved and risked her life for, but centred more on the law of forgiveness that protects the killers. Saba's father and uncle are now free, with little to no remorse for their actions.

Saba, having faced pressure from local elders and the clan, chose to forgive the men who attempted to kill her. A law in Pakistan allows a family member to forgive the perpetrator of a crime committed against them -- leading to all charges being dropped no matter the severity of the crime.

Even in the documentary, Saba’s father boasts that his action protected the “honour” of his clan. “Such grandstanding by a criminal is perhaps the most disturbing part of the documentary. One can hardly find any such example of the state being a silent spectator in the face of such defiance. One wonders if the murderers would have had the same response from the community had they been punished for the crime. Perhaps the narrative would have been very different if there was no legal provision of forgiveness,” wrote Zahid Hussain in an article on the subject published by IPS.