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honor killing 2

August 7, 2016




Gender-based denial of human rights
  Faheem Amir
A woman is regarded as a sign of misfortune, disgrace, burden and insecurity in our feudalistic society. Male chauvinism has turned her into a miserable and little respected creature that is fated to serve, suffer and die silently.
Many false customs and traditions, like vanni, karo-kari and honour killings have become established norms in Pakistan. There is no one, it seems, who can challenge these false norms. Even, a mother, Parveen Rafiq, burnt alive her 18-year-old daughter on 8th June in an area near General Hospital on Ferozepur Road, Lahore for marrying a man of her own choice .
According to news reports , Parveen Rafiq, who confessed to having murdered her daughter for “bringing shame to the family”, was arrested at her home in a low-income neighbourhood on Mast Iqbal Road. She set Zeenat Rafiq on fire more than a week after the girl reportedly eloped with Hasan Khan to marry him before a court in Lahore. Police suspect that Parveen was helped by her son and son-in-law, both on the run, in killing the girl.
Cantonment SP (operations) Abadat Nisar said that circumstantial evidence suggested that the mother had been helped by other family members in killing the girl. Police were conducting raids to arrest the suspects, he added. Hasan had agreed to let his wife return after her family promised four days ago to organise a traditional wedding reception for the couple.
He told the media that Zeenat was not willing to go back to her parents’ home because she feared they would kill her. “But she agreed after her family gave assurances regarding her safety,” he was quoted by a TV channel as saying.
“A case has been registered against three suspects, including the victim’s mother, brother Anees and brother-in-law Mushtaq, on the complaint of her husband, Hasan Khan, under Sections 302 (premeditated murder) and 336/8 of the Pakistan Penal Code,” a police official said. The most tragic thing is that other members of the family refused to bury Zeenat’s body. This callousness clearly reflects our misogynistic societal attitudes. In our patriarchal society, we don’t feel any remorse to beat, stab, shot and kill our daughters, sisters, wives and even mothers in the name of honour killing.
This is the second case of “honour killing” in one week in Punjab. Last week, 19-year-old Maria Sadaqat was tortured and burnt by a group of people in a village near Murree for refusing a marriage proposal. According to the police and locals, five persons tortured Sadaqat at her home after she got back from work. They said one of the attackers worked at the same school as the victim. Before her death, Sadaqat told to the police that the attackers thrashed her, poured petrol over her, and set her on fire. She cried for help but had already suffered massive burns, when neighbours, who lived at some distance, were able to get to her. She also told the police that she could identify two of the five attackers.
Then in another case, a 16-year-old girl was set on fire as “punishment” by an Abbottabad Jirga. According to Abbottabad police, “a 15-member jirga called by the Makol village councillor Pervez, ordered Ambreen, to be killed and set on fire as punishment for helping her friend escape the village to marry of her free will. Thirteen members have been arrested and are due to appear before an anti-terrorism court, including the victim’s mother, said police.
When the jirga ended after a six-hour meeting on April 28, the girl was taken from her home to an abandoned house where she was drugged, killed, and placed in the backseat of a parked van. The van was then doused with petrol and set on fire.
The charred body of the teenage girl was found in a torched Suzuki van in Donga Gali. Police recovered the drugs from the abandoned house near the site, as well as the can of petrol used to start the fire. The girl was later identified as the daughter of Riasat, a labourer who works in Balochistan’s Gadani area. According to District Police Officer (DPO) Khurram Rasheed, a couple eloped and left Makol April 23 for Abbottabad with the girl’s help and a driver named Naseer. A jirga was called at Naseer’s home when the couple could not be found.
DPO Rasheed said the case will be tried by an Anti-Terrorism Court and “exemplary punishment” will be recommended by the police.
A few months ago, a brother stabbed his sister several times and left her to die. He killed his sister because she had allegedly spoken to a man on her cellphone. In another case, a man killed his wife the very first night of their marriage, because he was suspicious that she was not a virgin.
There are many other cases which illustrate the helplessness and weakness of a woman in Pakistan.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), “there were 988 incidents of honour killings in Pakistan from February 1, 2004, to February 1, 2006. During this time, nearly half did not even have FIRs registered for the crime. Firearms were the weapon of choice for doing away with the victims, followed by blunt force injury with a heavy weapon. The number of honour killings between February 2014 to February 2016, was 1,276; nearly 400 did not have FIRs registered, and most of the victims were killed by guns”.
Daily Times writes about this tragic situation of honour killing: “It is indeed very peculiar, even comical in a dark way, that a society that is fixated on the supposed male-driven qualities of success and dominance, finds its honour in controlling women. Be it the average male chauvinist in one’s neighbourhood or the overly glorified Council of Islamic Ideology, it seems that the one true purpose of Pakistani men is controlling their women. However, as this recent tragedy shows, it is not just men who play their part in strengthening the patriarchal moorings of the present societal order: women have an equal role to play as well. As mothers, women have the primary role of conditioning their children and it is here that patriarchal values take root. This takes place in subtle ways as male children are preferred over female ones, and boys are taught their privileged place in society. Moreover, older women act as agents of control in which they exercise their authority over younger women, and make them go through the same trials and tribulations that they went through when they were young. Honour killings are an extreme manifestation of patriarchy and misogyny in Pakistan. This deplorable practice shows the sick mentality that patriarchy can engender. It is reprehensible that those who commit these crimes think that killing an innocent person brings “honour” while exercising such basic freedom as the right to marry a person of one’s choice brings such dishonour as to merit their murder. Equally unfortunate is the apathy that the public has developed to such incidences…. And that mindset can only be challenged in the realm of ideas by raising awareness of the injustices of the present patriarchal order. Hence, the issue of patriarchy continuously needs to be debated so that attention is steered towards it and the mindset that makes male privilege possible is effectively countered”.
But mindset is not easy to change in our society as our politicians, religious leaders and other custodian of feudalism, power and the status quo are not willing to make efforts for change.
Our paliamentarians are themselves a product of a feudal society. So, they take pride in protecting the false culture of honour killing and insulting women even in the parliament. It’s our tradition,” one parliamentarian, Senator Israrullah Zehri, the central president of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami) from Balochistan famously remarked on the floor of the House when justifying the burying alive of some women in his province.
He defended the killing of five or three girls on the floor of the Senate by saying that this (killing of women on the name of honor) was a Baloch tradition. Tragically, a former chief minister of Balochistan , Mir Jan Mohammad Jamali, also supported Senator Israr Zehri’s stance. He expressed anger over the fact that “outsiders” were “interfering” in “our deep-rooted cultural practices”.
Even, Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi has acknowledged that this practice, indeed, existed in Balochistan and refused to condemn it during an interview with a private TV channel.
In reality, honour killing in Balochistan is not a part of its culture but just a tool which is used to exploit other tribes and casts. According to news reports, “the issue of target killing women can not be described as something related to Baloch traditions because women are not killed in any other district of Balochistan under such excuses. Barring Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Jhal Magsi districts, no other district in Balochistan indulges in such embarrassing practices. Many people in the area say killing women in the name of honour has become a ‘profitable business’ in these three districts. For example ‘A’ accuses ‘B’ (both males) of having illicit relations with his wife, ‘C’. In order to assure the community of his truthfulness, he kills his wife i.e. ‘C’ but spares ‘B’. Then, ‘A’ demands a hefty amount of money and agricultural lands from ‘B’ as a settlement of the dispute. So this could rightly be regarded as killing for gaining economic benefits and not to restore one’s honour. There are other reasons as well for this inhuman practice”.
Unfortunately, the powerful men of the patriarchal Baloch society still defend such cases under various pretexts and hardly seem prone to abolishing these customs any time soon.
Defence Minister Khwaja Asif’s comment on opposition leader Shireen Mazari’s voice and the use of the term “tractor-trolley” for her, clearly manifests not only the true nature of our patriarchal society and feudalism but also the calibre of our ministers. Mohammed Hanif, a novelist, identifies these remarks “as harking to patriarchal expectations of how everything ‘woman’ should conform to a standard set by a male; how men in this society feel — to dictate terms, behaviour, dress and even tenor of voice to a woman”.
As if these words by the defence minister were not enough, Senator Hamdullah of the JUI has used the most explicit and vile abuse against a columnist, Marvi Sirmed, on a private TV show. He also allegedly tried to beat her. After this tragic incident, Hafiz Uzaifa Shakir of JUI-F has released a video saying, “Hum Pashtun gali ka jawab goli se dete hein” (We Pashtun respond to abuse with bullets).
All the above-mentioned incidents demonstrate vividly the level of apathy, neglect and disrespect towards women in our society. The most tragic point is that the PML-N government has not condemned these unfortunate incidents. Khwaja Asif has refused to tender apology to Shireen Mazari, while no member of the PML-N has said anything against Senator Hamdullah and Hafiz Uzaifa Shakir.
However, after the Lahore honour killing, the PPP senators have demanded that the government should make “honour” crimes non-compoundable offences by amending and passing the Anti-Honour Killings Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill, 2014, .
Around 40 Islamic scholars belonging to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) have also issued a fatwa (ruling) on 12th June, declaring the murder of women or girls in the name of honour as “un-Islamic” and an “unpardonable sin”. “Condemning the the recent honour killings in Lahore, Abbottabad and Murree, the document states that such incidents have shaken society and they indicate that we are moving towards societal degradation. The fatwa also urged the government to implement proper legislation in order to curb such crimes, and declare heinous acts such as burning or killing of woman as an unpardonable crime as it is an Islamic government’s responsibility to protect women rights.
The PML-N government must try to pass the amended 1914 bill immediately, if it wants to protect women’s rights in Pakistan. Without empowering its women, no progress is possible in a real democratic state. But, given the track record of the PML-N’s corrupt government and other political and religious parties, there is no hope for the passage of this amended bill in the coming days.





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