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Honour killings continue to plague country in 2011

Karachi: Yet another couple were shot dead on Tuesday because they dared to marry of their own free will. According to a text message sent by a local, the couple were killed when assailants opened fire at their residence in Ghotki.

However, no FIR has been registered against the incident and the only piece of information that has emerged thus far is that the killers allegedly belong to the Chaker tribe.

Even though honour killings have been ‘discussed’ on several occasions, there seems to be no end to such incidents as the year draws to a close. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) nine-month report states that a staggering 675 cases of honour killing have been reported in Pakistan, mostly in Sindh.

The ‘official’ figure presented in the Sindh Assembly is around 197, but Abdul Hayee, a senior field worker for the HRCP, says that the actual figure is much higher. The cases are “somewhere in the thousands”, MPA Humera Alwani pointed out in the Sindh Assembly. Much like Alwani, a number of other politicians have voiced their concerns over such incidents; however, any attempts to take action against honour killings are often scuttled on one pretext or the other.

Compounding off cases or accepting blood money is the main reason that the cases are not taken up by anyone, says Zuhra Yusuf of the HRCP. “Honour killings should be considered as crimes against the state, rather than against an individual,” she adds.

Once a couple are found to have married at will, their case is presented before a Jirga, which has its own unique way of handing out judgments, says Abdul Hayee. Though tribal Jirgas were proscribed by the high courts in the late 90s, they are still active in many parts of Sindh and Balochistan.

Once a case is before them, tribal elders demand Rs500,000 as blood money for the girl or boy who is later to be killed. If the family fails to agree, a new round of conflict ensues in which innocent relatives of the victims are also killed.

There have also been cases, Zuhra Yusuf points out, where fathers and brothers of a girl have killed her themselves “to avoid the stigma” and “keep their honour”.

Hayee says that the HRCP finds out about honour killings either through newspapers or sources, but it is rare that a couple being threatened would contact the commission for help. Not many people know where to go or who to contact when threatened with their lives.

Citing an old case as an example, the senior HRCP field worker says that a man named Ali Raza and his wife are still facing the repercussions of tying the knot despite belonging to rival tribes. Raza’s sister was recently abducted and killed.

Such incidents have been taking place for the last decade, Hayee says. “We may create a furor by our facts and statistics, but the point remains that these people have to go back to the same village. The police needs to be more proactive.”

Proactive is the same word that Alwani used while referring to the role of the police in such cases, which are sometimes not reported due to rampant corruption in the department, she says.

Even if a girl gathers enough courage to report the case, “they send her back to the family, who in such instances do not hesitate in killing her.”At present, there are only five women police stations in Sindh, says Alwani, adding that apart from “non-existent training” and “zero competence, they also lack the authority to register an FIR”. It all comes down to the same old issue – “make the prosecution stronger and the change that we talk of so often will be achieved”, stresses Yusuf.

Source: The News