It is yet another tale of humanity falling victim to misplaced notions of honour and insult. A newlywed couple was publicly beheaded in Sialkot for marrying without consent. The union had offended the wife’s family, which carried out the killings, as the man belonged to a “lesser tribe”. To ‘redeem’ themselves, they handed out the sort of punishment that would truly show onlookers just how honourable they were. The barbarity of the act is supposed to reflect the hatred and disdain the family felt for the actions taken by one of their own. It is another manifestation of a wider culture of primarily relying on violence in response to perceived insult or injustice. It could be violence against a daughter who needs to be reminded that she is not a son, or anyone else stepping out of line.

For many, such acts of violence are a testament to the value one attributes to traditions, honour and beliefs. Simply put, the culture is such, that if the family wanted to show that they were ‘respectable,’ killing their daughter and son-in-law was the best way to do it. They can once again walk amongst the rest of society with their heads held high. The lawmakers of the land, who have a crucial role to play in countering this menace, are mostly themselves a part and product of the same tribal culture. Elected members from Sialkot, Muzzaffargarh, Khairpur, Badin or wherever tribal culture thrives – are all aware of what goes on in their backyard. Sometimes, they participate and endorse the exercise. Other times, they simply look away. What almost never happens is intervention aimed at prevention and accountability.

The plight of the victims may make headlines, become the subject of a few talk shows, but it has never been embraced by the country’s populist politics. ‘Party X will fight against the menace of honour killings, and stands for the individuals right to marry freely regardless of sex and tradition,’ is not a slogan you can expect to see coming from any mainstream political party. Parliament, judiciary and law enforcement agencies – no one is willing to step up and protect innocent citizens killed for daring to live their lives as they see fit.