By Naeem Sahoutara / Creative: Anushay Furqan
KARACHI: Nazeer Ahmed and Razia tied the knot by tying a thread at the shrine of a saint but two months into their marriage, the matrimonial bliss has taken back seat to the constant fear of being separated by death.
“We liked each other and wanted to marry. But our parents were not happy with this union and so we fled our homes and married in court,” Nazeer told the judges recently. “This infuriated my wife’s family, who have declared us as karo and kari (liable to be killed under the custom of honour). Now they are out to kill us and we need protection.”
Karo kari – known as honour killing in other countries – is a custom followed by multiple tribes and communities living in the rural areas, under which the man and woman who fall in love are liable to be killed in the name of honour.
Nazeer and Razia hail from the Jati town in rural Sindh where thousands of men and women have lost their lives over the years, in what the human rights defenders call an extrajudicial manner. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan counted 943 incidents of honour killings in the year 2011 across Pakistan.
Lucky to be alive, Nazeer and Razia are also paying for the defiance. “A month after our marriage, my in-laws took away my wife and kept her at their house by force. Although the police later rescued Razia and the court allowed us to live together, we are always looking over our shoulders,” Nazeer told The Express Tribune.
Court hears matters of the heart
The only way left for couples to inch closer to their ‘happily ever after’ is to go to court for protection.
According to Abdul Wahab Baloch, a lawyer who pleads cases of free will couples, the number of such couples has increased in recent years.
“In this modern day and age, the struggle starts when boys and girls fall in love. It continues from elopement to court marriage and then goes on to approach the high court for protection,” adds Baloch, who filed five cases last year.
His claim has been supported by the staff at the high court, with the reader of a judge saying: “At an average, the judges have to entertain three or four cases daily. Sometime it jumps to five.”
He explained there are two types of cases – one in which the couple ask for protection, the other where the couple seek to quash a false abduction case registered by the girl’s family against her husband.
No end in sight
Over 4,500 new cases were reportedly filed with the Sindh High Court in 2012 at the principal seat in Karachi. Due to lack of specific categorisation of the cases, the overall figure for cases of harassment has been estimated at one third of the total, out of which half are believed to have been filed by free will couples.
Realising the gravity of situation, the chief justice while deciding a petition of a couple that had been declared karo kari, directed the social welfare department to organise programmes to create awareness among people about the sensitive issue.
Adnan Karim Memon, an assistant advocate general, who was supposed to communicate the court’s order to the concerned government department, says nothing had been done.
“The court ordered to launch a campaign in those areas from where usually two to four couples come to court for protection every day. But nothing has been done so far,” said Memon. “Had the direction been implemented, it would have saved the couples time and money and the courts from the extra burden of harassment cases.”