KARACHI: Legal experts at a seminar on Friday called for change in the approach towards Karo-kari (honour killings) – from the registration of an FIR till the time when an accused is awarded punishment – and effective implementation of relevant laws to defeat the crime.
The seminar on ‘Honour killings in Pakistan and compliance with law’, a pilot study by Advocate Maliha Zia Lari, was hosted by Aurat Foundation’s legislative watch programme for women empowerment.
Detailing the study, Ms Lari earlier explained the various problems she and her team faced when gathering information on honour killing in Pakistan.
She identified three factors – police, court and community – and said that she had to eventually rule out district courts as an option since they were very difficult to access.
Focusing mainly on FIR, Ms Lari felt that the categorisation of reports was a problem because often the murders were misreported. For instance, she said, all details of the crime were listed but the term “honour killing” was not mentioned in an FIR.
“When the term is not mentioned in the FIR, the police record it as a murder, and not as honour killing,” she explained. This resulted in further complications since if an FIR was not strong enough the prosecution might lose in court.
In other cases, Ms Lari added, people registered ordinary murders as cases of honour killing in order to increase its social acceptability.
The advocate said that while a few cases of honour killings were filed in the Sindh High Court, not a single case was reported in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
She said it was a widely held view that police in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa endorsed the crime, while contradictory decisions were made in Punjab to either condemn or support honour killings. There was also social pressure on the police in a few incidents, she added.
Ms Lari highlighted the fact that most victims of honour killings belonged to working class and perpetrators often used the pretext of women stepping out of their houses in order to commit the crime.
She said that 1,636 honour killings had been reported in the media from 2008 to 2010 according to an Aurat Foundation report.
DIG Abdul Khalique Sheikh, also a barrister, with a vast experience in handling investigation of honour killings, was of the opinion that though the state could not abdicate its responsibility, the results would be far more rewarding if the state institutions worked with NGOs.
He said police perspective was often downplayed while dealing with honour killings. He listed in detail the measures taken by the police department to fight the crime.
He said that the department had established honour killing cells in areas where the crime was more rampant, and so far 2,000 policemen had been trained to deal with the cases. He said that the police had also arranged awareness seminars in collaboration with the UNDP where NGOs did not have access and declared that because of these efforts they had been able to save 12 women from being killed.
District HR cells
The DIG also discussed the traditional methods that a police officer worked with and assured the participants in the programme that the department was working on plans to change this perception. Insisting that attempts were being made to sensitise the police, the DIG said that the district human rights cells should be reactivated where a separate desk should be set up to deal with honour killings. This way the cases could be monitored and documented easily, he said.
Highlighting the issue of qisas, former attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan said that there were laws that allowed the perpetrator to get away with an out-of-court settlement even if he had confessed to his crime. He insisted that qisas should never be an option in such cases.
It is worth noting here that only a week back, the Sindh Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution urging the provincial government to approach and recommend to the federal government to treat honour killing as a non-compoundable offence.
Compoundable offences are those in which the parties to a dispute can reach a compromise.
Condemning the act of honour killing, the senior lawyer said: “Every human being is a person in his/ her own right and no one else has the right to say that because of another person, his honour has been lost.”
He also discussed the issue of FIR and said that in case of honour killings, investigation was separated from the main policing.
He said that three parties involved in such cases were “the investigation officer, the person who caused the FIR to be lodged and the prosecution department”. But the department, he felt, had been mutilated and even though every FIR had to be intimated to the prosecutor, the ground reality was very different.
Mr Khan added that unfortunately, even prosecutors did not follow the law and eventually the courts were unable to punish the accused.
He also called for use of modern investigative techniques by police, citing that a lot of evidence got lost during the course of investigation.
In a very brief talk, Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Farheen Mughal discussed certain steps to improve the situation.
She called for involvements of clerics, who could make people aware of the crime in Friday sermons, to curb honour killings.
She also highlighted incidents where even though perpetrators were arrested, their families mostly comprising women raised voice against the arrest, and this served as a strong deterrent in fighting honour killing.
Earlier at the outset, resident director of Aurat Foundation Mahnaz Rehman said that honour killing had also become a business of blackmailing, where the victims were falsely accused and then killed. She called on the youth to take the struggle against the menace forward.