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Call to plug legal loopholes in cases of honour killing

KARACHI: Speakers at a consultation meeting held on Tuesday called for the “plugging of legal loopholes” that allow culprits in honour killing cases to be let off, and also stressed that the curse of honour killings could only be wiped out if the “societal mindset is changed”.

Speaking at the consultation meeting on “Lacunae in honour crimes (Criminal Law amendment) Act and proposed amendments” organised by the Aurat foundation, speakers said honour killing was “not considered to be a serious crime due to socio-cultural practices”, and that in some cases it was even considered “necessary” to maintain the honour of a family or tribe.

Retired Justice Shaeq Usmani suggested that the term ‘honour killing’ needs a clear legal definition and that “the benefit of a ‘sudden and grave provocation’ should not be given to culprits”.

He was also of the view that the provision of compounding – under which the heirs of those killed could ‘forgive’ the killer – should not be provided to the accused in honour killing cases. He also suggested that while the law prescribed imprisonment of “up to 25 years” (in cases where ‘qisas’ is not applicable), it gave a free hand to the judge, who could give imprisonment of as little as a week at his or her discretion.

He said the lower limit of imprisonment should be at least 14 years and that this should be introduced through an amendment in the relevant law.

SSP Abdul Khalique Shaikh highlighted some of the difficulties that the police faced when dealing with honour killing cases. He suggested that efforts needed to be taken to solve these issues as the police investigation’s role in such cases was crucial.

He said that honour killings were “mostly stage dramas that are scripted well before the crime is committed, as it is decided beforehand who would be the complainant in the FIR, who would be witnesses, and who would be the accused”. He added that most of these would normally be “close relatives”.

He also asserted that the story given in the FIR was “usually fabricated” and that the complainant, witnesses and accused all told a coordinated story to lead the police down the incorrect path.

He added that during the trial, the complainant usually ‘forgave’ the accused and the case would be closed and the culprit released.

‘Honour killings given low priority’

He also accepted that honour killing cases were “given a low priority” by the police, and lower grade police officers normally conducted the investigations for such cases.

He suggested that, as done with blasphemy cases, the investigation should be assigned to a senior official (an ASP or DSP), and that this officer’s findings should be confirmed by a superior official (SP). Only after this should the case be registered, he suggested.

He said that investigations by a senior official would reveal whether the accused had acted alone or if the complainants and witnesses also helped him in the crime and thus should be included as co-accused. He suggested that the state should also be given the option to become a complainant in these cases, as the accused and complainant were normally in cahoots.

SSP Shaikh pointed out that in many cases a jirga was held to decide what was to become of an honour killing case, and he suggested that all those involved in such jirgas should stand trial as co-accused in honour killing cases.

Sindh Women’s Development Minister Tauqeer F. Bhutto said that efforts were being made to review laws that were either discriminatory towards women or which could be misused to exploit women. She said that she had submitted two women’s issues related bills to the chief minister and that they would soon be tabled in the assembly.

Nusrat Sehar Abbasi (a PML-Q MPA) and former MPA Kulsoom Nizamani said that though the number of women legislators had increased, they had limited influence as compared to their male counterparts, owing to which very little could be done for women.

Maliha Zia, Shamim Mumtaz, Dr Mahjabeen, Khalida Qadri, Mangla Sharma, and others also spoke at the consultation meeting, which was conducted by Lala Hassan.
Source: Dawn