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Honor Killings Plague Pakistan

Hooran, another victim of the cancer custom of honor killing, known locally as Karo-Kari, exudes a mix of fear and hopelessness in her broad brown eyes despite the fact that she defeated a sure death.

Honor Killings Plague Pakistan

"I and my parents begged them, but they didn't listen to us," a pale and week Hooran, 14, told IslamOnline.net from her hospital bed at a local hospital in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

"They (her cousins) looked happy and proud. We were crying, and begging for mercy, when they pointed their pistols at me," she recalled fighting back the tears.

"They fired at me and I fell down. The only thing I remember was the screams of my mother."

Hooran was abducted by her cousins, who suspected she had had illicit relations with Ghulam Ahmad, on November 24 from Malir, a suburban area near Karachi, along with her father and mother.

The cousins shot at Hooran in front of her parents, who begged for the life of their child who was soaked in her own blood.

But the real cousins had no mercy for her. They threw the "body" of Hooran in a crater and drove off with the wailing couple.

The next day, a passerby saw the 14-year-old girl lying unconscious and immediately informed the nearby police check post.

Breaking the tradition, the local police acted swiftly and rushed her to a local hospital in precarious condition with five bullets in her belly, arm and legs.

Doctors had little hopes for her survival, as she was almost dead. But miracles do happen, and she came out of the clutches of death.

Karo-Kari is a compound word literally meaning "black male" and "black female," metaphoric terms for adulterer and adulteress.

Being so labeled leads more often than not to the murder of both man and woman allegedly guilty of having an illicit affair.

This is especially true in the rural areas of the southern province of Sindh.

Hunted

Hooran hails from Larkana district of Sindh province, the hometown of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

Her father, a farmer, moved the family to Karachi a few months back after her cousins tried to kill her on the pretext of Karo-Kari.

They had already killed the alleged Karo a few months back.

To save their daughter's life, the parents immediately shifted to Karachi but the hunters did not leave her.

Hooran said she along with her parents and the relatives who provided them shelter in a car at Super Highway when all of a sudden a car cut them off the road.

Two armed men, who later appeared to be her cousins, alighted the car.

They left the family that had provided shelter to Hooran and her parents and took them away.

Hooran denies that she ever had an affair with slain Ghulam Ahmad.

"I even didn't know him. Actually, one of my cousins wanted to marry me, and he had asked my parents for that, but they refused," she recalled.

"Following my parents' refusal, my cousins blamed me for having relations with Ghulam Ahmad, whom I had never seen," Hooran insisted.

"My and my parents' lives are still in danger. I don't know how and where my parents are and whether they are or alive?"

Cancer  

 

"The government is not serious to take any concrete step to curb this menace," Haider told IOL.  

Hooran is one of the few victims of honor killings who managed to survive to narrate their stories.

The graveyards of Upper Sindh districts are filled with the graves of those innocents men and women who have been killed in the name of so-called honor.

"There is no mention of honor killing in the Qur'an or Hadiths," Professor Hassamuddin Mansoori, Chairman of the Shari`ah Department in the University of Karachi, told IOL.

"Honor killing, in Islamic definitions, refers specifically to extra-legal punishment by the family against the woman and is forbidden by Shari`ah," he averred.

"Islam strictly prohibits murder and killing without legal justification," said the expert.

"The so-called honor killing is based on ignorance and disregard of morals and laws."

Some 40 Pakistani religious scholars belonging to different schools of thought have recently issued a joint fatwa against honor killings.

They branded the heinous custom un-Islamic and devoid of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

According to official statistics in 2006, as many as 1,261 women were murdered in the name of honor killings in Pakistan.

Official data presented in the country's Upper House Senate shows that more than 4,000 people were killed during last 6 years in the name of honor killings.

Of the victims almost 2,774 were women and 1.226 were men which means twice as many women lose their lives to this ugly social custom.

But unofficial statistics suggest that the number of victims is much higher because most the cases are not reported to police since close family members, including brothers, fathers and husbands might be involved.

The data shows that the highest number of honor killings were perpetrated in Punjab province followed by Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the south-western province of Baluchistan.

Government Blamed

Many blamed the government for failing to stem this social cancer.

"The government is not serious to take any concrete step to curb this menace," Iqbal Haider, Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), told IOL.

Haider, a former federal law minister, said that different women rights organizations had constituted a committee under his chairmanship last year, which proposed to the government declaring honor killing an "uncompromisable" crime.

"In 90 percent cases of honor killings, the culprits are close relatives (father, brother, uncle or cousin) and therefore they are easily forgiven by the family of the deceased," he noted.

"If the government is serious to curb this phenomenon, it has to repeal the clause of Wali (guardian) vis-à-vis honor killings from Pakistan Penal Code," insisted the HRC chief.

"Murder is not an offense against an individual. It is a social evil, which terrorizes the society, therefore strict legal and administrative steps must be taken to wipe out this phenomenon."

Haider said the parliament fails to draft an appropriate legislation against honor killings because of the influence of feudal lords there.

"Most of the parliamentarians consider honor killings as part of their culture and matter of their honor, which in realty is not."

Honor killings are supposed to be prosecuted under ordinary murder in Pakistan, but in practice police and prosecutors often ignore it.

Often a man must simply claim the killing was for his honor and he'll go free.

In 2004, the parliament passed a bill making honor killings punishable by a prison term of seven years while the death penalty could be inflicted in the most extreme cases.

Culture

Rakshanda Naz, Joint Director of Aurat (Women) Foundation, said the government had taken some initiatives against the ugly crime, but it was focusing on procedural amendments rather than amending the main law.

"For instance, honor killing should be treated as crime against state, but practically it is not," she said.

"Even if court refuses for settlement, then the option of out of court settlement is still there, which favors the culprits as in most of the cases close relatives are the killers."

Naz believes the phenomenon could not be controlled 100 percent as it remained part of society in different shapes during different times.

"This phenomenon varies in different provinces of Pakistan," she said.

"In NWFP, a majority of decisions regarding honor killings are taken on individual or family basis, while in Sindh and Punjab this decision is taken by jirga or Punchayat (assembly of tribal elders)," noted Naz.

"Ratio of honor killings is higher in those provinces where agriculture lands are abundant. Land is the main reason behind a majority of honor killing incidents in Sindh and Punjab."

Investigations in most honor killing cases reveal that the victims - males and females - have been killed by their relatives to confiscate their properties, settle down personal enmities and tribal feuds or implicate rivals in false cases.

Naz insists that the tribal culture and mentality remains one of the major reasons behind honor killings in Pakistan.

"Tribal leaders have set up their own courts to decide about life and death of their respective tribesmen. Unfortunately, these tribal lords are dominant in parliament too. Therefore, they don't let any adequate legislation pass against this heinous crime."

Similar practices have been known since ancient Roman times, when the Pater Familias (senior male within a household) retained the right to kill an unmarried but sexually active daughter or an adulterous wife.

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