By Imran Ayub
KARACHI: Police are investigating more than a dozen murder cases registered this year with the suspicion that ‘honour’ is the prime motive behind them, indicating that this brutal tradition is spreading in urban centres.
Figures from police sources suggest that from January 2009 to date the city has witnessed 16 murders of men and women, who were allegedly killed by their family members – immediate and extended – for different reasons and probes into the incidents led the investigators to determine that ‘honour’ was the motive.
“Most of the cases were registered in the east and west zones of the police organisational structure,” said an official elaborating on the data. “In some cases, women were killed allegedly by their husbands suspecting extra-marital relations while in some others, the women suffered the same fate for marrying on their sweet will.”
He agreed with the notion that the number of murders on these grounds in the city had been growing gradually and a majority of the suspects in the cases was still at large.
“In some cases, the killers turned up at police stations, confessed and surrendered themselves after committing the crime but in most cases, the culprits have fled. Efforts are on to arrest them,” added the official.
In October alone, there have been four murders in less than two weeks in the city for the same reasons. In the first week of the month, the police retrieved two bodies from a 200-foot-deep well in the Gadap Town area. One of the bodies was of a woman who was four-month pregnant and believed to have died of asphyxiation. The other was of a young man with head injuries. The area police said they had reason to believe that this was a case of ‘honour killing’.
Earlier this week a 35-year-old-man shot his 57-year-old wife and surrendered himself to the Docks police confessing that he killed the aged woman on grounds of character. The very next day a young man and father of a one-year-old boy was slaughtered by his wife’s elder brother, a cousin and two other attackers in Machhar Colony area. Initial probes suggested that the couple had been living in the city for the past two years after marrying against the will of their families.
Despite being highly criticised by the authorities as well as human rights’ organisations, this heinous trend, usually termed a part of the rural system, continues unabated. The police, however, find it hard to investigate particular killings effectively, as both the aggrieved and accused parties usually belong to the same family or tribe.
“In almost all the cases in urban areas, the victims and aggrieved come from a rural background,” said DIG East Abdul Khaliq Sheikh who also coordinates with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for awareness mainly in Sindh about honour killings.
He said the suspects in recent cases came to Karachi for work and then returned to their hometowns.
“In our experience the complainants deliberately protect the suspects because they belong to the same families,” said DIG Sheikh. “So the police investigations remain inconclusive most of the time due to the non-cooperation of family members concerned.”
Both human rights’ organisations and legislators, however, believe that apart from the non-serious attitude of the families concerned, the police’s approach towards the ‘honour killing’ cases and the political influence mainly in rural areas always obstruct the true outcome of the investigations.
Also, human rights organisations are not convinced that the trend of ‘honour killing’ is new in urban centres, as they believe that the difference is that in recent days the crime has started being reported and has come into the limelight due to increased media exposure. They also doubt the police efforts and seriousness on part of the legislators to curb the brutal trend.
“We have been gathering data on honour killing in urban areas for a long time,” said Lala Hasan from Aurat Foundation. “The police arguments about difficulties while investigating these cases are acceptable to some extent but they are entirely justified.”
He said that honour killing reflected a mindset more than a trend of the people from any particular ethnic group, adding that it was more rampant in people with rural backgrounds, who could not let go of traditions, even after settling in urban areas.