STRAIGHT TALKS

READ MORE: Going not-so green

The word honour is usually associated with those who deserve respect and admiration for noble acts of bravery and sacrifice. Therefore one fails to understand as to why the term “honour killing” is used in the brutal, deliberate and cold-blooded acts of murder of innocent women and men.

The recent shocking report of a young couple being tortured, electrocuted and killed on the order of a jirga in the name of so-called honour, has again brought to light a brutal tradition of  killings in the name of so-called honour which have now also spread to urban centers.

This particular crime went unreported initially and only came to the notice of authorities after a police informer expressed his suspicions about the death of the young couple. Officials said that the bodies of victims Bakht Taja and Ghani Rehman, aged between 17 and 18 years, were exhumed in Mauladad graveyard in Sherpao Colony, Quaidabad, in the presence of Judicial Magistrate (Malir) Azhar Ali Kalhoro.

The bodies were moved to the Civil Hospital Karachi, where a team of doctors carried out the postmortem examination under the supervision of the magistrate. “There were visible signs of electric shocks and torture on both bodies,” confirmed the doctors.

 Officials said that the girl was murdered first on the evening of August 15 and later in the night the boy was also killed within the remit of the Ibrahim Hyderi police station allegedly by their own parents. They were buried secretly in the mentioned local graveyard.

The investigating officer of the case said that the held suspects told the police that they were pressurized by the elders of their tribe to kill their children for the sake of so-called honour. He said the couple wanted to contract a marriage of their free will and on Aug 14 left their houses. However, they were traced and brought back by their parents the same night only to face horrible deaths.

Almost every day there are horrific tales in the print and electronic media about Karo Kari. This honourable word has been violated by being linked to murderous and cowardly acts of killing a person, usually a defenceless woman, which is inexcusable, no matter what the crime or the justification may be.

To draw attention of the government, the judiciary, the legislators, the media and the citizens towards the practice of honour killings, Helpline Trust and Daily Times had organised a seminar some years back, in which some of the participants included Justice ® Majida Razvi, former Chairperson, Commission on Status of Women, Justice. ® Nasir Aslam Zahid, Arif Jatoi, Sardar Nadir Leghari, the late Senator Iqbal Haider and Javed Jabbar.

The speakers had focused on the evil practice of honour killings and jirgas and their shameful social and legal codes. These Jirgas ignore and insult laws of the country, by taking the law into their own hands and sanctioning and condoning such killings in the name of honour and tribal traditions.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Sindh High Court had banned the jirga system, it continues to flourish in Pakistan and according to HRCP reports, 25 jirgas were held last year. What is worse, these jirgas were often held under the chairmanship of political entities, including MPAs, nazims, party leaders and even ministers.

“Pakistan had been witnessing an alarming increase in the menace of honour killing with 4,383 incidents having been reported over the past four years alone, with Sindh topping the list at 2,228 deaths”.

“Women were the main victims of honour killings and included those seeking divorce, who had been raped, who refused to yield to family pressures and in order to extract revenge from feuding opponents.”

Honour killings were based on feudal mindset, lack of education and denial of the fundamental human rights to women. This is despite the fact that here are several laws to protect women and the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees gender equality which concepts are rendered meaningless by such cruel acts.

But there are some discriminatory laws that should be reviewed and the government must adopt strategies to support and protect victims.

The state must assume the responsibility to uphold human rights and provide security to the life and property of all its citizens without any discrimination.

The recommendations acknowledged the media’s role for its courage to report such crimes and called for research and analysis of the cases honour killings by the media for increasing public awareness. Moreover, the media should show sensitivity towards the victims and respect privacy while reporting such incidents.

The government has been urged to declare jirgas unlawful and eliminate this parallel judicial system. It was recommended that Islamic scholars, academics, police, judiciary, feudal, politicians and members of the civil society organisations should be invited and encouraged to play an active role in the elimination of these outdated practices.

“Gender bias must be eradicated from the state machinery and discriminatory laws should be re-examined and done away with. Police should be sensitized and should register cases on behalf of the state where the complainants were not forthcoming.”

One must appreciate the efforts of the Women Rights activists and NGOs, which have been raising this issue from time to time. However, more has to be done to eliminate these murders in the name of honour and it is unfortunate that legislators and the government have failed to support these efforts and to take effective action against these murders most foul.

 (Email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk)