By Zulfiqar Kunbhar
As the world struggles with the deadly Coronavirus, in Pakistan, its second most populous province Sindh is also making headlines in local news for its constant battle against the pandemic within the country.
But while the news media is fixated upon Coronavirus updates, fresh incidents of some grim violence against women have surfaced which have not gained traction among the civil society or the political leadership.
Since a long time now, the menace of ‘honour’ killings have been emerging in the region.
NEWER CASES EMERGE
On April 10, the Sindhi regional media gave coverage to two incidents of karo kari, a local term for killings in the name of honor.
The incidents took place in northern Sindh’s Kacha area, where three persons – a man and two women were killed.
According to details, one of the incidents took place in Shikarpur’s Khanpur area, where the accused person Shah Bahadur Taighani along with some accomplices killed his wife and a relative Ghulam Akber Taighani when he assumed that they were having an illicit affair. The accused opened fire on both of them, and right after the incident fled the crime scene.
The media reported the incident for two days but the police was unable to recover the bodies. However till then the case had not been registered as there was a dispute upon the jurisdiction of the police station.
The very same day, another incident of honor killing took place in the Sukkur district, when accused Idrees Mahar killed his 20-years old wife Wajidan Mahar while opening fire upon her.
The killing took place in Kacha’s Bakho Mahar area near Panno Aqil, according to the police.
The police arrested the accused Idrees Mahar, while Wajidan’s body was handed over to her family after post mortem.
In the region of Sindh, the problem of killing in the name of honour has been an unstoppable offence since a long time. However it is the northern part of Sindh, which joins with South Punjab, which has the highest number of cases of such killings in the past. These parts include Sukkur, Khairpur, Qambar Shahdadkot, Ghotki, Larkana, Shikarpur, Kashmore and Jacobabad districts.
Sindh’s karo kari cases are attributed to the tribal and feudal system, disputes over lands and encroachment, disputes on agricultural water, lack of education and awareness, etc.
According to data compiled by the Sindh Suhai Sath Organization an NGO that works on women’s rights in the province, since January 1, 2019 to January 31, 2020, as many as 186 people were reportedly killed in the name of honor. Out of the total, at least 130 were women.
“This data is based on reported cases. Around 70 percent of the honor killing cases reported were from northern Sindh,” Dr Aisha Hassan Dharejo, Chairperson Sindh Suhai Sath Organization told Voicepk.net.
But these figures are only the reported cases. There are several other cases which have not been reported, thus are not even counted, she said.
Dr Dharejo says that on average if reported and unreported cases are accumulated, then three women are being killed in Sindh on a daily basis in the name of honor.
But what does the law say about karo kari?
Barrister Zamir Ghumro, the former Advocate General Sindh explains that karo kari is simply an act of murder, and the law requires that these cases must also be dealt with in the same way as any other murder case.
“As per law, karo kari is a heinous crime and is just like any other murder and should be dealt like any other murder too,” he says.
“But what we witness is cases of karo kari in Sindh one after the other – and this shows the State’s weak writ on law and order. It is the State’s prime responsibility to protect the lives of every citizen,” Barrister Ghumro added.
According to a news report, in June 2016 at least 40 Islamic scholars belonging to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) issued a fatwa (ruling) declaring the murder of women or girls in the name of honour ‘un-Islamic’ and an ‘unpardonable sin’.
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 an unpardonable crime as – the religious order said – it was ‘an Islamic government’s responsibility to protect women rights’.
The report said that in the past another religious platform, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) had also declared the murder of women or girls in the name of ‘honour’ un-Islamic.
But even these religious orders did not stop the killings.
A NEED FOR EXEMPLARY PUNISHMENT
Dr Aisha claims that in nearly half of the reported cases of karo kari reported in Sindh since 2019, no arrests have been made till date.
She also demands the State’s involvement in every FIR.
“Every FIR should be lodged on behalf of the State,” she emphasizes. “If the victim’s family becomes the complainant, then later on they tend to be pressured to enter a compromise with the accused and agree to have the charges dropped.” she added.
According to Advocate Sattar Zangejo, a Sukkur-based human rights defender, also concurs that karo kari cases should be registered on behalf of the state.
“Take the example of General John Jacob,” he says referring to a British era administrator between 1838 and 1858 and the founder of the city of Jacobabad. “He used to hang karo kari murderers in Sindh. Back then, this menace had almost completely ceased,” he says. Only similar exemplary punishment can lead to eventual elimination of this inhuman practice today.
The writer is a freelance journalist and tweets at @zulfiqarkunbhar