A teenage couple was reportedly murdered by family members ‘for violating the Pashtun code of honour’ on the orders of a jirga. The horrific incident did not take place in a tribal area but in Karachi — the largest city of Pakistan.
There doesn’t seem to be an end to violence in the name of ‘family honour’. Cases of honour-based crimes continue to be reported from across the country.
Pakistan’s Parliament had approved an anti-‘honour’ killing bill last year that promised mandatory prison term of 25 years to perpetrators. But it remains to be seen if the law can act as an effective deterrent.
The perpetrators of such crimes are mostly supported by family heads or elders of tribes — enabling them to conveniently get away with their heinous acts. Some provisions of laws allow heir of victims to legally pardon the accused.
Couples entering marriage on their own accord are threatened by people from the influential groups of their areas, who think a woman’s act of marrying the man of her choice brings dishonour to the community.
While capacity building of police and tougher legislation can ensure an improved conviction rate in cases of ‘honour’ killings, groups that challenge the writ of the state by issuing murder decrees need to be dealt with an iron fist. Enough of parallel justice systems — and perpetuation of social injustice because of that.
Jirgas in Pakistan are known for issuing decrees of killing, forced marriage and even rape.
In July, a jirga in Multan had ordered rape of a woman as a punishment for her brother’s act of raping another woman. But this time it’s not a remote town or village. The jirga murder happened in the largest urban centre of Pakistan, and it shows that the mindset is thriving in urban areas as well. Those who justify ‘honour’ killing do so in the name of religion. Therefore, religious clerics also need to come forward and clearly state that Islam does not condone such heinous practices. It is about time a counter narrative to the flawed concept of ‘honour’ is introduced in order to stop violence in its name.*
Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2017.