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Anti-honour killing project on the rocks after UK-funding ceases

The local advisory committee formed to continue running the anti-honour killing campaign, launched by the British Council in November 2004, has lost interest in the project since the UK government stopped funding when the project ended in March 2007, it has been learnt. The three-year awareness project was part of an international campaign to remove the menace imbibed not only in Pakistani society but in several other countries including Egypt and Israel.

After a series of training sessions involving members from various strata of society, including the judiciary, police, NGOs, academia and the media during the programme, an Advisory Committee of the Honour Killing Awareness Raising Project was set up to run the campaign in rural Sindh and Southern Punjab – where a majority of the cases are reported every year. However, it has been learnt, through reliable sources, that the campaign proved to be unsuccessful after most members of the advisory committee backed out and major reshuffling took place in the Sindh Police Department.

The project ran successfully for three years and the training and workshop sessions were completed in the designated time (March 2007), following which an advisory committee was formed that was expected to carry on the campaign further, but the British Council has received no update so far. On contacting the Social Campaign Manager, Asghar Soomro, for details of the three-year project, he informed that the project had to meet five targets, including a print and electronic media campaign through screening of documentaries on honour killings, training of journalists from across Sindh and Southern Punjab, awareness raising campaigns in schools, national and international conferences on honour killing and the training of the police.

He said that the focus of the training was to sensitise the police because a victim first seeks their help for justice. “Since there is no forensic laboratory with the Sindh Police Department, they rely on ocular evidence and stress on confession, rather than conviction. The project attempted to change this attitude as well and senior police officers from London were invited for the training,” he added. However, despite the training, no behavioral change was noted.

On being questioned if the awareness-raising project yielded some positive results between November 2004 and March 2007, Soomro said that the number of cases of Karo Kari reported increased from 100 in 2004 to 300 in 2005 – which was proof of the increasing awareness about recognising the act and reporting it as a crime.

During a seminar held on the issue in 2006, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad also termed the project a ‘great step’ and attached his hopes with members of the committee and the campaign, believing that the effort “will make a difference” and would prove to be successful as “mutual solutions would be found in an amicable manner”. However, the opposite has been the case as honour killings continue to be reported in Sindh.

Under the leadership of Dr Hameeda Khuhro and Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid, the members of the committee comprised Nayyar H. Haider, the then Additional IG, Investigation, Sindh Police, Superintendent Police Sharjeel Kharal, Sheema Kirmani of Tehrik-i-Niswan, Advocate Zia Awan and members of NGOs, Human Rights Education Forum, Dastak Communications among others.

The members had the support of Hamish Daniel, British Deputy High Commissioner, Marcus Gilbert and Samina Khan of the British Council who later left their office and the other members split as well. The News contacted Justice (retd) Zahid for further details on the status of the project, but he expressed his ignorance over the issue.

Some insiders told The News that the lack of interest in the project is perhaps due to the lack of funds for the campaign and that the members were perhaps more interested in the money than the issue. No coordination among the above-mentioned NGOs is seen either to curb the menace.
Source: The News
Date:5/20/2008

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