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Honour killing probes hit by police disregard for family bonds

By Tahir Siddiqui

The 25-year-old man from Kohat, who killed his newly-wed 20-year-old wife and a 24-year-old man in his home late last month and fled, is most likely to be let off even if arrested and tried mainly due to lack of evidence in the so-called honour killing case.

There was no eyewitness to the double murder. Besides, suspect Zaid Ullah and the pistol used in the ghastly crime are still missing. Furthermore, the Quaidabad police booked the suspect on the complaint of the victim’s elder brother, who had no qualms about justifying the killing.

The complainant is believed to have no interest in bringing his brother-in-law to justice.

“He did the right thing and any honourable man will do so if his honour was jeopardised,” he was recently quoted as saying in a section of the press. He further said he would have done the same thing if he had noticed the “disrespectful affair” of his sister prior to her husband.

“It is always a major blow to the case of the prosecution if or when the complainant in such a case turns hostile in the court of law, and the benefit goes to the defendant,” says Naimat Ali Randhawa, a former special public prosecutor of the anti-terrorism courts. “Such cases must be registered on behalf of the state to deny any undue benefit to the suspect”.

Since honour killing is mostly perpetrated by the victim’s male family members, legal procedures and prosecution should be clearly left to the state alone and the victim’s family must have no say in the matter. It has been a practice for the past few years that suspects in honour killing cases are booked on behalf of the state as murderers, irrespective of the motive, which is a crime against the state and society.

Zaid Ullah apparently killed his wife, Aalia, and Hakim Qureshi after he found them together in his home in New Muzaffarabad Colony. Victim Qureshi, who originally hailed from Lahore, was a worker at a garment factory near the Landhi Export Processing Zone and lived at Majeed Colony, a shantytown in Landhi, where the victim woman’s parents, hailing from Swat, also lived. The suspect, a worker at a grocery store, did not go to his workplace on that day and he was believed to have hidden himself somewhere near his home before the arrival of Hakim Qureshi as he must have been sure about the victim’s presence in the home in his absence.

The police registered a case (FIR 180/2009) against the escaped suspect under Section 302 (pre-meditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of the victim woman’s brother, Ataullah. One wonders why the police made the woman’s brother complainant so conveniently, making the double murder a family matter when they already knew about the tribal and cultural backgrounds of the suspect and his wife. Why couldn’t the police find someone from the male victim’s family to become a complainant?

According to a senior lawyer, a second FIR (first information report) could be lodged by the family of the male victim only if they have their doubts about the course of investigation.

“There seems to be no material evidence in this case at the first instance, and the case will be shattered totally if the complainant does not support the prosecution case,” he added.

He said the prosecution would have to rely on ocular and circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt in this case. “The chain of events in this case will lead to the logical conclusion of the prosecution case,” he added.

The lawyer said the police must not make a complainant from the family in a case if both the victim and the suspect are relatives. He referred to a recent fratricide case in which the third brother was made complainant. “A family member is always susceptible to becoming a hostile witness for the prosecution to save the suspect,” he added.

While the pardoning of honour killing by the victim family is barred under the law, the court is empowered to waive or compound the offence committed in the name of honour on conditions with the consent of the victim’s family. But pardon is not a question in this case, because the defendant is expected to be acquitted mainly due to legal lacunae.

tahir.siddiqui@dawn.com
Source: Dawn
Date:6/7/2009

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