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Move to ensure punishment for ‘honour’ killing

By: Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: The Punjab government is planning to ensure stringent punishment for ‘honour killings’ even if heirs of the victims, mainly women, reach agreements with the killers.

The initiative has been taken by the women development department after the killing of one Farzana allegedly by male members of her family near the Lahore High Court in May this year.

Also read: Woman stoned to death outside Lahore High Court

A summary was sent to the chief minister for permission to amend the relevant laws and he had constituted a committee under former law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan.

Sources told Dawn on Sunday that the committee had held its meeting a few days ago and discussed the proposal to make the honour killing a non-compoundable offence. But the meeting attended by government officials and members of civil society and religious scholars was informed that the idea might draw objections from religious circles.

Before 1990 the ‘honour killing’ was a non-compoundable offence, but it was later made compoundable in view of the opinion by religious scholars and recommendations by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). The view was that Islam allows a compromise in murder cases and, therefore, the offence should be made compoundable.

Know more: Reinterpreting ‘honour killings’

According to the sources, the meeting was informed that since the offence had been made compoundable under the CII instructions, the idea of making it non-compoundable would be opposed by religious circles.

An alternative proposal was presented which sought to amend Section 311 of the PPC under which courts “may” punish a murderer if it is found that the act of “Fasad Fil Arz” is involved in the case, even if heirs of the victim pardon the killer under an agreement. The pardoned killers to be punished by courts include those who have past criminal conduct, adopted brutal and shocking manner of the killing and are potential threat to society.

An amendment to the section made in 2011 also allows the courts to punish the killers pardoned under some agreements. The courts may sentence them to life imprisonment (25 years), 14 years imprisonment or even to death. According to the law, in any case the punishment should not be less than 10 years of imprisonment.

A suggestion was made at the meeting to replace the word “may” in the section with “shall” to make punishment for honour killings mandatory and fix death sentence or life imprisonment for the killers, even if they are pardoned by heirs of the victims.

The sources said that a sub-committee also comprising religious scholars had been formed to firm up recommendations and submit these in 15 days.

“The government is going to discourage honour killing by plugging loopholes in the law,” an official said.