KILLING someone in cold blood is murder that merits a lengthy jail sentence, and not forgiveness.
Last week in Karachi, 16-year-old Sumaira was brutally beaten and stabbed to death by her elder brother for talking to a man. Her throat slit with a kitchen knife, she bled to death as the neighbours looked on. When her father refused to lodge an FIR, the local police intervened.
In a rare instance of integrity, they registered a report with the state as complainant — not the usual pattern in cases where an ‘honour’ crime has been committed. On the same day that Sumaira was killed, Mehrunissa was reported to have been murdered by her family in the city’s old Muzaffarabad Colony for defying social expectations.
Aurat Foundation statistics document that around 1,000 women are killed annually for bringing ‘shame’ on their families.
Their murderers gain societal respect and are supported by regressive patriarchies after they kill ‘disobedient’ female family members. Unfortunately, few cases are reported. The trials of those that do reach the courts go on for years — all the more reason for removing punishment waivers and compoundability provisions from the law books.
The 2014 case of Farzana Parveen murdered outside the Lahore High Court for marrying against her family’s wishes reminds us again of the disgraceful level of impunity that exists.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif must deliver on his pledge to amend the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004, by removing the clauses that make such murder a private offence instead of a crime against state and society.
Mr Sharif has said the killers of women will be “punished very severely” and not allowed to be forgiven by the victims’ family. For this, he will need to deviate from his 1997 precedent when the PML-N government passed the Qisas and Diyat provision making prosecution and punishment the responsibility of the victim’s heirs.
With the religious right bent upon undermining women’s rights, enacting revised laws will require determination. Precise red lines must be drawn to show that there is no honour in murder.