ISLAMABAD - Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farhatullah Babar has said that although the recently passed anti-honour killing law is important and closes the door of acquittal, some issues are still there that need to be addressed.

Addressing the students at the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) here yesterday on the current legislation and way forward, Farhatullah Babar said the positive side was that the new legislation ensured that even if the entire family of the victim pardoned the murderer, he would have to face a mandatory 25-year jail without any remission. But the downside was how to establish a murder as honour killing, he said.

“If the perpetrator claims the murder was for other reasons, it will make the crime compoundable and killer will be promptly pardoned under the Qisas law. A heavy burden has been placed on the shoulders of investigators, prosecutors and the judge to disprove the murderer and hold it as a case of honour killing.

He said the underlying principle in the concept of Qisas was to save a human life under death sentence and not to condone the crime itself. So even if the compoundable provision of Qisas was to be applied, it should be applicable only after the trial had commenced, the charges framed and proved in a court of law and the murderer had been awarded capital punishment, but not before the completion of this cycle, he added.

“What has been happening is that instead of following the full procedure, a compromise is made and the heirs of the victim pardon the murderer in a scenario in which both the victim and the murderer are represented by the same person. No wonder that murderers literally walk out of the lockups within weeks, not only without conviction but even without any trial,” he said.

The PPP senator said: “It is time for the legislature and political parties to give a serious thought to the recommendations made last year by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCS), proposing several amendments to the Qisas and Diyat law.”

He said, according to an estimate, over 2,770 women were killed from 2008 to 2013, an average of over 500 murders in a year, in addition to unreported cases as well as the number of men also killed along with women in the name of honour. He said despite closing the doors of acquittal through the law, it would take quite some time to close the doors through the society as well.

“In an environment in which bodies like the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) publicly declare that men can beat their wives, refuse to accept DNA tests in rape cases and reject legislation against child marriages and forced conversions, the door through the society to acquit honor killers will not be completely shut,” he maintained.

“Shutting this door requires that we revisit the role and purpose of the Council of Islamic Ideology and strengthen the Commission on Status of Women. Traditionally, resistance to make honour crime a non-compoundable offence has been spearheaded by the religious lobby on grounds of ideology, but it is a self-serving argument,” he asserted.

The original anti-honour killing bill that made honour murders totally non-compoundable was approved unanimously across the party divide by the Senate Committee on Interior that was headed by a JUI F senator.

Subsequently, it was also passed in the plenary session of the Senate unanimously. JUI-F members, including its stalwart, the Senate deputy chairman, all voted for it. But objections were raised by them at the time when the bill came up before the joint session, Babar said.

Furthermore, the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance and the anti-terror laws also do not allow compounding the crime of murder, he said. So the rejection of the original anti-honour killing bill had nothing to do with ideology. Perhaps opposition to it was motivated by anti-woman bias of the ideology lobby, he said.