PAKISTAN: The thirst for honour cannot be quenched unless blood is spilt 

Although there is a law in Pakistan against honour killings known as the ‘Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2004’ these inhuman acts of revenge against innocent people continue to increase. The fact that the law has been amended to include honour killings shows the very real need for this inclusion, however, amending the law alone is insufficient and until and unless action is taken to enforce this law this abhorrent crime will continue.

Despite the fact that honours killings are forbidden they have continue to happen due to the need to undermine women and discriminate against them. In order to do so men are also frequently targeted as ‘examples’. Honour killings have been carried out in many ways, shooting, burying women alive, burning and other brutal methods. However, the use of lapidation or stoning to death, takes barbarism to new depths.

In a recent case a government employee from Mianwali District in Punjab was stoned to death by over 300 men led by tribal elders in Parachinar, the capital of the Kurram. When it was found that he was having an affair with a local girl he was transferred to Azad Kashmir but continued to maintain the affair. He had every intention doing the honourable thing and marrying the girl who agreed to the union. This was nothing less than a love shared between two innocent young people. They had no intention of offending their families and Islam but merely wished to share their love.

As reported, the man, whose identity has not been revealed returned to Parachinar in order to elope with the girl but her family discovered them, beat the man mercilessly and locked him up before handing him over to the elders. He was bound, blindfolded and taken to a public place near a graveyard where he was executed in the most barbaric manner imaginable; he was stoned to death.

His fate was decided upon by a Jirga, an illegal court, who, in fact, found both the man and the girl guilty of offending Islamic teachings and therefore liable to be sentenced to death. The fate of the girl has not been revealed. However, two days later the body of an unidentified young woman was found in a remote area of the mountains. The local authorities and members of the Jirga quickly hushed up the incident. It is believed that the victim was murdered after abduction on the instigation of the tribal elders.

Another case was reported in the Daily Express Tribune regarding a couple, who had married of their own choice, they were murdered by strangulation along with their new born child. A resident of Mandi Bahauddin, Mr. Tassawar Hussain, his wife Sayyeda, and seven-month-old baby girl were found dead and the police revealed that they were killed because Hussain and Sayyeda had married without obtaining the consent of their families. Sayyeda’s family had earlier registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Hussain for kidnapping her but the case was dropped when Sayyeda testified that she had married Hussain of her own volition.

In what situation can the death of a 7-month-old infant be justified? If the reason for their murder was the idea that the infant had been born out of wedlock and was therefore illegitimate why then did the perpetrators not heed the fact that they had been married before a civil court? Here again the question arises as to what is the criterion or definition of an illegitimate child when science has developed to the point where couples who cannot give birth by natural means may now do so? Are the results of such medical assistance also to be considered illegitimate? Why are the custodians of the religions silent on this issue? This is the main cause for declaring any child that is not born by natural means as illegitimate. And this is evidenced by the number of children, around 3,000 a year, who are dumped in philanthropist organisations that keep baby cots outside their offices to collect the so-called illegitimate babies. Sadly, this is not always the case as many babies are simply dumped in the garbage.

This practice of dumping babies is not a secret in the country but the custodians of religions do not speak out against it. The philanthropist organisations should be praised, not only for respecting religion but also the right to life of these innocent children which should, in fact, be the basic responsibility of the state.

While there are laws that enforce the right to life it is evident that in the presence of old traditions and customs the right to life is of secondary importance and the non-state actors play a dominant role in determining who should live and who should die. When the society reaches the point where it allows religious and tribal leaders to have the power of life and death the existence of the laws becomes meaningless and human beings are no longer equal. When any person can decide the fate of another it is nothing less than anarchy.

It is the height of barbarism when a mob resorts to stoning a person to death to safeguard old traditions or religious beliefs. That the society of the region could willingly participate in such an act reveals the influence of violence against logic and the basic concept of the right to life. Such violence erodes the rule of law and the teachings of any religion. It has come to the point that the people have turned their backs on the rule of law and the fundamental teachings of their religion. These people have placed themselves on a par with their God or Allah.

It is this same ideal that allows a grandparent to strangle a 7-month-old baby. It is an indication of how the mindset of the people is changing so as to allow them to take the life of their own children to uphold the honour of their family. The thirst to protect the honour of the family has reached such a level that only the taking of blood can quench that desire.

What is the analysis of the society? How would a social scientist define a society that on the one hand is trying to establish Islamic fundamentalism and on the other hand relying on the centuries old customs and traditions of the tribal areas? This is a situation which is not particular to Pakistan but has seeped into many Muslim societies around the world as is evidenced in both the United States of America and Europe.

Is honour more important than the right to life?

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-036-2013
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights, Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of religion, Human rights defenders, Right to life, Torture,