A criminal blight


WEB DESK: Honour killings are a criminal blight and a black mark on the face of our society. But even as such crimes go, the latest incident of the murder of a 16-year-old girl on the orders of a jirga (informal council of elders) makes the hackles rise on two counts.

First and foremost, the jirga ordered the murder of Ambreen of village Makol in the Doonga Gali area of Abbottabad on April 28 for facilitating the elopement of her friend with a young man of her choice. We are by now accustomed to hearing about honour killings of women who exercise their right to choose their life partners against the wishes of their family, but now the transgression of antediluvian views about women having to obey the dictates of their family in matters of matrimony seems to have expanded to include anyone who helps a woman exercise that right. Perhaps the jirga in its frustration at not being able to lay its hands on the couple who eloped on April 23 and are in hiding, chose to vent its revengeful spleen on poor Ambreen.

The victim was drugged, strangled, and her body then burnt inside a vehicle. The second aspect of this heinous crime that stands out is the extreme brutality on display. The police have arrested 13 members of the 15-man jirga as well as the mother of the victim, the last named, for not reporting the matter to the police. The mother claims she was threatened with dire consequences if she went to the authorities. Two members of the jirga are still at large. An anti-terrorism court has remanded the arrested accused to police custody for 14 days to allow the investigation/interrogation to be completed.

A woman parliamentarian from the area has expressed surprise at the incident, arguing that the people of the area are fairly well educated. That brings out one of the anomalies of our social structure, in which elements of enlightened modernism coexist cheek-by-jowl with the most retrograde attitudes. No surprise therefore that even in an area considered relatively educated, according to our worthy parliamentarian, such brutality and retrograde practices persist. Neither Islam nor an enlightened society allows punishment of women exercising their right to marry of their own choice. Islam gives women the right to make life choices about their marital future and the bond is treated as a contract between two consenting adults.

Similarly, in large parts of the globe, including the Muslim world, women are asserting their rights in this regard and receive support from enlightened sections of society. Our laws too, leave no room for this kind of ‘mob vigilantism’, which unfortunately has taken a heavy toll of people defying the edicts of conservative elements and self-proclaimed jirgas without any legal or moral standing. According to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report, last year alone, 500 men and women fell victim to honour killings.

The law enforcing agencies, including the police and the courts, must ensure that the full force of the law is used to punish the perpetrators of this brutal crime to serve as an example and a deterrent for all such incidents in future. It should not be allowed that the accused get off under the Qisas and Diyat laws that have in practice made a mockery of the state’s duty to prosecute and punish all such crimes. Pakistani society cannot progress and take its place in the modern, enlightened comity of nations if such practices persist amidst us. They must be rooted out through a combination of punishment of such horrible crimes and the education of society at large to overcome backwardness and reactionary postures.

Source: Business Recorder