Unabated Honour Killings in Pakistan
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 24 May 2020

By VK Gaur

Two teenage girls aged 16 and 18 were killed on 14 May 20 in the name of 'honour of the family.'The girls were killed by allegedly by their paternal cousin, in Shaam Plain Garyom-the village located on the border of the North and South Waziristan tribal districts.The area comes under Razmak police station in North Waziristan.It is alleged that a short mobile video of the girls with a young man had gone viral on social media.

A video shows a young man recording himself with three young girls in a secluded outdoorlocation.The area where the incident took place is far-flung and considered risky in terms of security. The area is reported backward where the local rule of tribes is predominant. However, a police party has been dispatched to the area to further investigate the case.

Way back in 2012 Kohistan video scandal, in which three women were killed for honour after a  video showing them singing and clapping while two boys danced had gone viral in the ultra-conservative and remote district of Kohistan.

Pakistanrecords the highest number of honor killings per capita of any country in the world.One-fifth of the world's 5000honor killings are reported in Pakistan.Such killings are locally knownkaro-kari. It is likely that honor killing has been a practice in the area of Pakistan for ages- well before Pakistan came existence.The local male population, enforcement agencies, judiciary and law makers have been passive supporters in many cases and despite recent legal reforms, honor killings remain a common practice in Pakistan.

Honor killing is nothing but an act of murder, for allegedimmoral behavior. Grounds of honor killing arenot necessarily based on immoral behavior. Beside alleged marital infidelity and flirtation, the honor killings are stage managed fordeclining an arranged marriage, demanding a divorce and being raped. Suspicion and accusations alone are many times enough to defile a family's honor and therefore enough to warrant the killing of the woman. Honor killings are also connected to inheritance problems, feud-settling, or to get rid of an unwanted wife. At timeskillings are done to marry again.

Pakistan is a male dominated country -apatriarchalsociety. Women are required tomaintain strict honor code. In order to preserve woman's chastity, women must abide by socially restrictive cultural practices pertaining to women's status and family honor, such as the practice of veil (purdah), the segregation of sexes and dignified dress code. For couple of decades many human rights activists, local and international organizations have mounted pressure on lawmakers to firmly and promptly deal with the killings. 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistanrecorded 460 cases of honor killings in 2017. Of these killings, 253 were sparked by disapproval of illicit relations and 73 by disapproval of marriage choice.According to Human Rights Watch, NGOs/INGOs in the area estimate that around 1000 people are killed each year in Pakistan.

In 2015 nearly 1,100 women were murdered in honor killings. In 2011, human rights groups reported 720 honor killings in Pakistan (605 women and 115 men), while Pakistan's Human Rights Commission reported that in 2010 there were 791 honor killings in the country, and Amnesty International cited 960 incidents of women who were slain in honor killings that year. Over 4,000 honor killing cases were reported in Pakistan between 1998 and 2004. 3,451 cases came before the courts. Surprisingly, the highest rates were in Punjab, followed by the Sindh province and not in the tribal areas. Killings are often recorded as suicided or accidents.

There were countless case s of inhuman killings in the garb of honor killings.In some rural parts of Pakistan, the male-dominated jirga, or tribal council, decides affairs and its executive decisions take primacy over state legislation. A jirga arbitrates based on tribal consensus and tribal values among clients. In December 2017, a local jirga in Karachi, Pakistan, condemned Ghani Reham and Bakhtaja to death by electrocution. The teenage couple, 18-years-old and 15-years-old, had eloped. The killing was sanctioned by the jirga and then carried out by the couple's fathers and uncles.

There are many infamous cases of killings in Pakistan.Samia Sarwar was murdered  in the Lahore office of human rights activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani in April 1999.  She was seeking help for a divorce from her first cousin. She intended to marry a man of her choice. The family felt dishonored as such organized her murder. The police did not make any arrests or pursue prosecution beacause Sarwar's family had strong political connection.In 2000 BBC came out with a documentary, "License to Kill," to cover Samia's killing in Pakistan.

 On 14 July 2008   five victims were kidnapped, beaten, shot, and then buried alive because they refused the tribal leader's marriage arrangements and wanted to marry men of their own liking. This happened in Baba Kot   in Balochistan. Of five victims – three were teens, and two middle-aged women.

Ayman Udas, a Pashtun singer from the Peshawar area, was shot dead on 27 April 2009, by her two brothers who disapproved her divorce, remarriage and artistic career as damaging to family honor. No one was prosecuted.

On 27 May 2014 a pregnant woman  Farzana Iqbal @ Parveen was stoned to death by her family in front of a Pakistani High Court for eloping and marrying Muhammed Iqbal, she loved. Her father who killed her had no remorse.

In 2015, a documentary was released about Saba Qaiser, a woman from Punjab, Pakistan,who married a man against her family's wishes because his family was of "lowly status." In response to her elopement, her father and uncle beat her, shot her in the head, put her body in a sack, and threw the sack into a river. Amazingly, Saba survived the violent attack, escaped the sack, swam to shore, and was able to get help at a local gas station. While still in recovery, Saba was pressured by community leaders to forgive her father and uncle. During that time, the "forgiveness law" was still in place, allowing murderers of victims to be released if the family chose to forgive them. With the help of a pro bono human rights lawyer, Saba fought the case in court, but finally chose to exclaim forgiveness in court due to the pressure.

Leniency against honor killings dates back to the British Colonial law era. Pakistan's legal code is based on the 1860 code imported by Britain, which granted a lenient sentence to a man who murdered his wife for “grave and sudden provocation." Pakistan's Federal Shariat Court reformed this law in 1990 to bring it closer to the Shari'a, declaring that “according to the teachings of Islam, provocation, no matter how grave and sudden it is, does not lessen the intensity of crime of murder.” Lenient sentences, however, are still handed down by certain judges, who continue to justify it by citing the British law's “grave and sudden provocation."

On December 8, 2004, under international and domestic pressure, Pakistan enacted a law that made honor killings punishable by a prison term of seven years, or by the death penalty in the most extreme cases. Women and human rights organizations were, however, skeptical of the law's impact, as it stopped short of outlawing the practice of allowing killers to buy their freedom by paying compensation to the victim's relatives, which was problematic because most honor killings are committed by close relatives.

In March 2005, the Pakistani parliament rejected a bill against the practice of honor killing declaring it to be un-Islamic. The bill was eventually passed in 2006 as the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act of 2006.

The law on honor killings has halfheartedly been reformed several times. Notable legislation reforms to protect women in Pakistan from violence include The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act of 2006, Criminal Law (Third Amendment) Act of 2011, The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act of 2016, and The Criminal Law (Amendment) (Offences in the name or pretext of Honor) Act of 2016. The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act of 2016 was passed to amend Pakistani law to further protect women. Although The Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act in 2016 is a step forward in providing services and protection for women, it is believed that even further action needs to be taken to protect women.

Human rights are natural rights, fundamentally available to every human, regardless of nationality, race, gender, or ethnic group. Through the ongoing work of the United Nations, the universality of human rights has been clearly established and recognized in international law.

According to Amnesty International, if a government is negligent in prosecuting perpetrators, it is liable and complicit in those abuses. The role of the modern nation-state is to ensure full protection of universal human rights. The prevalence of honor killings in Pakistan underscores the Pakistani government's systematic failure in ensuring fundamental human rights to women.

The women in Pakistan are generally deprived of protection, equality and fair justice. Unfortunately, under the garb of honor killing the very parents who give birth and near and dear brothers and cousins mercilessly kill the victims who crave for a life of their choice.

Image Courtesy - Honor Killing in Pakistan - Twitter -Siasat Today / Pakistan Protest against Honor Killing - Twitter - Worldnewsdotcom


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