BARBARIC customs die hard, and when state representatives are either involved in perpetuating them or look the other way, there are slim chances these practices will be eliminated. Much has been written about the detestable practice of karo-kari, or honour killing, in Sindh; yet despite legal provisions against it little change has been witnessed on the ground. As reported on Tuesday, a jirga held in Wazirabad town of Sindh’s Shikarpur district recently passed a decision in a karo-kari case. Two women of the Mahar tribe had allegedly been killed by their parents for having ‘illicit relations’ with men of the Jagirani tribe. The Jagiranis were fined a total of Rs2.4m for ‘kidnapping’ and ‘having illicit relations’ with the women. The jirga was apparently held to settle a potentially explosive tribal dispute, but while both parties accepted its decision, astonishingly, no one was penalised for murdering the women. Even more shocking, an MNA, the PML-F’s Ghous Baksh Mahar, presided over the jirga.
Why was an MNA, who represents a lawmaking forum, involved in the promotion of jirga ‘justice’, when laws passed by the august house he is a part of have seemingly been violated? Not only has the Supreme Court declared the holding of jirgas unconstitutional, honour killings also contravene the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004. But how can such a law be enforced when lawmakers themselves are involved in promoting illegal acts? There are also reports that other government officials in upper Sindh quietly support the jirga mechanism to settle disputes. True, such a forum has its utility when it comes to resolving local disputes, especially when the judicial system is notoriously inefficient. But what is totally unacceptable is when these forums condone crimes such as murder and kidnapping. Police authorities have reportedly launched a probe into the Shikarpur incident. For this deplorable practice to be eliminated, the state needs to take action against all those who commit and abet honour killings, despite their connections and clout.