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PAKISTAN: A dual murder of 16-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy on the pretext of honor killing

October 12, 2004

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

12 October 2004
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UA-136-2004: PAKISTAN: A dual murder of 16-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy on the pretext of honor killing

PAKISTAN: Honor killing; Violence against women; Rule of law
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received another honor killing case from Sindh Province, Pakistan. According to the information received, a 16-year-old girl, Gulzar, and her 19-year-old cousin, Ghulam Mustafa, were killed by Gulzar's brother, Abdul Majeed, on 21 April 2004 on the pretext of honor killing.

Even though he has filed the complaint against the perpetrator, Ghulam Mustafa's father has shown his distrust in the Pakistani legal system and wants to settle this matter through a tribal court jirga, which was banned by the Sindh High Court decision of last April. In Pakistan, the victims' families prefer the jirga system rather than the government's judicial system to deal with their matters, because it has failed to provide speedy justice to the victims.

Please send a letter to the local authorities and request them to prevent a tribal court jirga being held in this case. Please especially urge the Sindh State government to lay down procedures to ensure honor killings are prevented in the future, as a large number of the honor killings have happened in Sindh Province.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Name of the victims: 1) Ms. Gulzar, 16 years old, of Maarfani tribe, unmarried, 2) Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, 19 years old, a farmer, of Maarfani tribe, unmarried
Alleged perpetrator: Abdul Majeed, Ms. Gulzar's elder brother, of Maarfani tribe
Complainant: Mr. Ghulam Abbas, Mr. Ghulam Mustafa's father, son of Abdul Rahman, of Maarfani tribe
Witnesses: 1) Abdul Wahab, son of Mazar Khan, 2) Ghulam Hayder, son of Abdul Karim, both are relatives of complainant and of Maarfani tribe                    
Date of Incident: 21 April 2004 at about 1:00am 
Place of Incident: Jagan Village, Shikarpur District, Sindh Province, Pakistan
Case reported on: 21 April 2004 at 11:30am at the Jagan Police Station at Humaayoon (FIR NO. 18/04 under Section 504,302 PPC)

Account of the incident:

On 21 April 2004, a 16-year-old girl, Gulzar, and her 19-year-old cousin, Ghulam Mustafa, were killed by Gulzar's brother, Abdul Majeed, on the pretext of honor killing. 

According to Abdul Majeed's father, he and his relatives, Abdul Wahab and Ghulam Hayder, who were visiting his house, woke up at around 1:00am due to a loud noise. They then saw that Abdul Majeed was holding a gun in his hand and was abusing Ghulam Mustafa. They tried to calm Abdul Majeed down but he refused to listen to them and then fired on Ghulam Mustafa. The bullet penetrated Ghulam Mustafa's right arm and hit his ribs. As a result, he fell to the floor and died soon after. While the victim's father and his relatives were overwhelmed with shock, Abdul Majeed went back to his house, which was next to the victim's house, and shot dead his sister Gulzar, who was sleeping in her room. She was shot in her chest and forehead. Thereafter, he left the place. Abdul Majeed's father and his two relatives were witness to all of these events as there was no fence between the two houses.

Because he could not find an available vehicle late that night, Abdul Majeed's father waited until the next morning to lodge a complaint about the incident to the Jagan Police Station. (FIR NO. 18/04 under Section 504,302 PPC) In the First Investigation Report (FIR) of the case, he mentioned that Abdul Majeed killed his son and Gulzar out of anger accusing them of having illicit sexual relations. However, the father insisted that Abdul Majeed killed the two victims without any concrete evidence to prove the allegation.

When Abdul Majeed's father was reached by a human rights organization, he told them that he would not pursue the case in court, preferring instead to settle the matter through a tribal court jirga. He said that it would take too long time to fight the case in court and that it would cost too much. 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

Honor killings often occur on the pretext of maintaining honor. The male relatives who commit the murders are rarely prosecuted in traditional communities. It appears that any action, real or fabricated, if deemed by the family as compromising their honor, may be considered a valid reason to commit murder. While illegal according to national laws and inconsistent with Islamic doctrine in both the Koran and Sharia, the lack of consistent positive action by Pakistani law enforcement agencies and the seemingly commonplace belief in the practice of honor killings, facilitate this inhuman practice.

Moreover, even though the victim's family lodged the FIR to pressure the offenders, in most of honor killing cases, the victim's family does not pursue the cases at court due to the high cost and long delay in getting justice. The government's judicial system has failed to provide speedy justice to the victims and an individual case often takes several years.

Therefore, the victim's family goes to the traditional justice system (jirga-tribal court), where the cases are mostly settled within a few days. This traditional system has been practiced for a long time and it is commonly accepted. Most of the cases under the tribal court are disposed compoundable under the Ordinance of Qisas and Dayat. (According to the Ordinance of Qisas and Dayat, if the offender provides compensation to the victim's family as they claimed, the offender can be released without any punishment.) Therefore, it is difficult for the victims to expect fair trials.

On April 23, 2004, the High Court of Sindh in Pakistan has rendered a decision in which it declared that all tribal jirgas are illicit, and the court has strictly banned any efforts to organize or arrange any type of jirga. However, Pakistan's jirga system continues to lead the country in feudal practices due to the lack of strong action of Pakistani law enforcement agencies to implement the decision of the Sindh Hight Court.

The AHRC strongly urges the government of Pakistan to take strong steps to implement the April 2004 decision of the Sindh High Court, banning all jirga trials as illegal and exhorting law enforcement agencies to take effective action against such jirgas. The perpetrator of this case should be prosecuted and punished by law. 

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please send a letter, fax or email to following addresses and express your concern about this serious case.

Sample letter:

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Dear _______,

Re: PAKISTAN: A dual murder of 16-year-old girl and a 19-year-old boy on the pretext of honor killing (FIR NO. 18/04 under Section 504,302 PPC at the Jagan Police Station)

Name of the victims: 1) Ms. Gulzar, 16 years old, of Maarfani tribe, unmarried, 2) Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, 19 years old, a farmer, of Maarfani tribe, unmarried
Alleged perpetrator: Abdul Majeed, Ms. Gulzar's elder brother, of Maarfani tribe
Complainant: Mr. Ghulam Abbas, Mr. Ghulam Mustafa's father, son of Abdul Rahman
Date of Incident: 21 April 2004 at about 1:00am 
Place of Incident: Jagan Village, Shikarpur District, Sindh Province, Pakistan

I am writing to bring to your attention the dual murder of Ms. Gulzar and Mr. Ghulam Mustafa by Mr. Abdul Majeed on 21 April 2004.

According to the information I have received, a 16-year-old girl, Gulzar and her 19-year-old cousin, Ghulam Mustafa were killed by Gulzar's brother Abdul Majeed on the pretext of honor killing. It is alleged that Abdul Majeed killed his son and Gulzar accusing them of having illicit sexual relations.

I am very disturbed by the constant silence of the government of Pakistan in the matter of honor killings while innocent civilians, mainly women, have lost their lives almost daily. I would like to remind you that you have international obligations as a state party of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to take strong action to abolish the practice of honor killing which constitute discrimination against women.

I urge you to prevent a tribal court jirga being held in this case and ensure that the victims get fair trials and justice. For this purpose, I urge the government of Pakistan to improve its judicial system so it can provide speedy justice to the victims, especially in honor killing cases. I also urge the government of Pakistan to take strong steps to implement the April 2004 decision of the Sindh High Court banning all jirga trials as illegal. In particular, I urge the Sindh State government to lay down procedures to ensure honor killings are prevented in the future, as a large number of the honor killings have been happening in Sindh Province.

Yours truly,

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Send a letter to:

1. General Pervez Musharraf
President
Pakistan Secretariat
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Fax: +92 51 922 4768/ 920 1893 or 1835

2. Mr. Syed Sultan Shah
Joint Secretary for Law, Justice and Human Rights
Islamabad
PAKISTAN
Tel: + 92 51 920 3464
Fax: + 92 51 9203119

3. Mr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan
Governor
Government of Sindh  
Governor House, Karachi
Sindh Province
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 21 9201201-3
E-mail: governor@governorsindh.gov.pk

4. Mr. Sayed Kamal Shah
Provincial Police Officer, Sindh Police
Central Police Office Karachi
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 21 9212626-7
Fax: +92 21 9212051

5. Mr. Rahoo Khan Brohi
Regional Police Officer
Sukkur Region
Airport Road Sukkur
PAKISTAN
Tel: +92 71 30547, 30248
Fax: +92 71 31824

6. Mr. Mehtab Hussain Shaikh
DPO Investigation
District Shikarpur,
Police Head Quarters Shikarpur
Tel: +92 761 515077, 512378
Fax: +92 761 512369

7. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
OHCHR-UNOG
Palais Wilson, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Fax: 41 22 917 9022


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type :
Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID :
UA-136-2004
Countries :
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Extended Introduction: Urgent Appeals, theory and practice

A need for dialogue

Many people across Asia are frustrated by the widespread lack of respect for human rights in their countries.  Some may be unhappy about the limitations on the freedom of expression or restrictions on privacy, while some are affected by police brutality and military killings.  Many others are frustrated with the absence of rights on labour issues, the environment, gender and the like. 

Yet the expression of this frustration tends to stay firmly in the private sphere.  People complain among friends and family and within their social circles, but often on a low profile basis. This kind of public discourse is not usually an effective measure of the situation in a country because it is so hard to monitor. 

Though the media may cover the issues in a broad manner they rarely broadcast the private fears and anxieties of the average person.  And along with censorship – a common blight in Asia – there is also often a conscious attempt in the media to reflect a positive or at least sober mood at home, where expressions of domestic malcontent are discouraged as unfashionably unpatriotic. Talking about issues like torture is rarely encouraged in the public realm.

There may also be unwritten, possibly unconscious social taboos that stop the public reflection of private grievances.  Where authoritarian control is tight, sophisticated strategies are put into play by equally sophisticated media practices to keep complaints out of the public space, sometimes very subtly.  In other places an inner consensus is influenced by the privileged section of a society, which can control social expression of those less fortunate.  Moral and ethical qualms can also be an obstacle.

In this way, causes for complaint go unaddressed, un-discussed and unresolved and oppression in its many forms, self perpetuates.  For any action to arise out of private frustration, people need ways to get these issues into the public sphere.

Changing society

In the past bridging this gap was a formidable task; it relied on channels of public expression that required money and were therefore controlled by investors.  Printing presses were expensive, which blocked the gate to expression to anyone without money.  Except in times of revolution the media in Asia has tended to serve the well-off and sideline or misrepresent the poor.

Still, thanks to the IT revolution it is now possible to communicate with large audiences at little cost.  In this situation there is a real avenue for taking issues from private to public, regardless of the class or caste of the individual.

Practical action

The AHRC Urgent Appeals system was created to give a voice to those affected by human rights violations, and by doing so, to create a network of support and open avenues for action.  If X’s freedom of expression is denied, if Y is tortured by someone in power or if Z finds his or her labour rights abused, the incident can be swiftly and effectively broadcast and dealt with. The resulting solidarity can lead to action, resolution and change. And as more people understand their rights and follow suit, as the human rights consciousness grows, change happens faster. The Internet has become one of the human rights community’s most powerful tools.   

At the core of the Urgent Appeals Program is the recording of human rights violations at a grass roots level with objectivity, sympathy and competence. Our information is firstly gathered on the ground, close to the victim of the violation, and is then broadcast by a team of advocates, who can apply decades of experience in the field and a working knowledge of the international human rights arena. The flow of information – due to domestic restrictions – often goes from the source and out to the international community via our program, which then builds a pressure for action that steadily makes its way back to the source through his or her own government.   However these cases in bulk create a narrative – and this is most important aspect of our program. As noted by Sri Lankan human rights lawyer and director of the Asian Human Rights Commission, Basil Fernando:

"The urgent appeal introduces narrative as the driving force for social change. This idea was well expressed in the film Amistad, regarding the issue of slavery. The old man in the film, former president and lawyer, states that to resolve this historical problem it is very essential to know the narrative of the people. It was on this basis that a court case is conducted later. The AHRC establishes the narrative of human rights violations through the urgent appeals. If the narrative is right, the organisation will be doing all right."

Patterns start to emerge as violations are documented across the continent, allowing us to take a more authoritative, systemic response, and to pinpoint the systems within each country that are breaking down. This way we are able to discover and explain why and how violations take place, and how they can most effectively be addressed. On this path, larger audiences have opened up to us and become involved: international NGOs and think tanks, national human rights commissions and United Nations bodies.  The program and its coordinators have become a well-used tool for the international media and for human rights education programs. All this helps pave the way for radical reforms to improve, protect and to promote human rights in the region.