In September, a fourteen-year-old girl and a man in his 20s were shot dead by unidentified people in the southwest of Peshawar. Police, while probing the case, found out that the young girl was apparently killed in the ‘name of honour’. They arrested a close family member of the girl, who according to the police, confessed to killing the two for ‘honour’. In another such incident, a resident of a posh locality in Peshawar shot dead a relative on suspicion of an extra-marital relationship with his wife. The woman was lucky enough to escape. The accused arrived later at a local police station to surrender, narrating how the two ‘made him’ take this extreme step. In the second week of October police arrested another man, one day after he had killed his mother in a suburban town for ‘eloping with a man’.
‘Honour’ killings are reported from all over Pakistan. The ratio is higher in the rural and suburban towns as compared to urban areas. These killings are taking place quite frequently. The statistics of ‘honour’ killing incidents in the country are horrifying.
While going through the official figures of these incidents only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one finds that 369 women and 284 men were murdered in 448 cases in the last six years. As many as 52 incidents of ‘honour killings’ have been reported to the police in the province during the current year, resulting in the deaths of 43 women and 30 men.
There are many such incidents that are never reported to the police — the victims are buried silently in the local graveyards. As per the statistics on the year 2017 compiled by law enforcers, 98 incidents were reported during the year, resulting in deaths of 82 women and 56 men. 60 women and 46 men were killed in 76 cases in 2016, 60 women and 50 men in 69 cases in 2015, 69 women and 56 men in 84 cases in 2014 and 55 women and 46 men were killed in 69 cases of ‘honour’ killing in KP in 2013.
“Most common factor prevalent within the society that I have seen in my professional life is the so-called ‘damage to the killer’s pride’ (ego). In most cases, acts like elopement or marrying out of one’s own free will are taken as an ‘irreparable loss/damage’ to the killer’s reputation. The damage can be allayed with an open acceptance of the commands ordained by Islam, whereby a Nikah can only be solemnised after the bride whole-heartedly accepts the marriage offer by the groom,” Mohammad Faheem Wali, a senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan tells The News on Sunday (TNS).
While going through the incidents in 2017 district-wise, one finds that the highest number of such incidents was reported in Peshawar, Dir, Swabi and Nowshera while the lowest number was that in Chitral, Abbottabad, Karak and Mansehra.
“Eight men and 18 women were killed in 21 incidents of ‘honour’ killing in Peshawar in 2017. In Swat, 12 incidents were reported with the killing of ten women and five men. Nine such cases were reported in Lower and Upper Dir with a total 25 murders while seven women and as many men were killed in eight incidents in Upper Kohistan district,” reveals the official statistics regarding ‘honour’ killing in KP. Not a single incident was reported in Chitral, Abbottabad, Tank, Lakki Marwat, Mansehra, Haripur, Abbottabad and Karak districts.
In 2013, the highest number of honour killing incidents were reported in Nowshera (17), followed by 10 in Swabi, seven in Hangu and 6 in Peshawar. In 2014, Swabi topped the list with 11 incidents followed by 10 in Peshawar. The highest number of cases in 2015 (14) was reported in Upper Dir, followed by 10 cases in Nowshera and eight in Peshawar. In 2016, 15 incidents were reported in Peshawar with the killing of ten men and 11 women, followed by nine such incidents in Swabi and Upper Dir, seven in Nowshera and six in Buner districts. The remotest Chitral is the only district in the province that has not reported a single incident of ‘honour’ killing in the last six years.
Most of the accused in the cases have been arrested as they normally don’t escape after committing the crime. In many cases the accused surrenders immediately after killing. Out of the 211 people charged in 98 cases in KP in 2017, police have arrested 166 accused persons. In one case the accused was convicted while in ten cases the accused were acquitted by the court. The rest of the 87 cases are still in court.
Samar Minallah Khan, anthropologist, documentary filmmaker and women rights activist, believes no one can underestimate the importance of legislation and enforcement of laws in ‘honour’ related killings. “However, by the time a so-called ‘honour killing’ takes place, it is already too late. The precious life cannot be replaced. It is important to work on the prevention of such crimes,” Samar tells TNS.
“We need to start valuing our daughters. Considering her a human being is the first step. In my opinion, changing the mindset of people is crucial; and it will take time but we need to make an effort to reach out to those who believe in the culture of violence against women,” opines Samar.
“Extremism is so deep-rooted in this society that anyone can kill an innocent soul in the name of honour or otherwise, for the satisfaction of ego. We need to educate our society, more tolerance and acceptance of the right to liberty and free association that is already enshrined in our Constitution and all the other relevant laws.
“The problem always remains at the implementation stage. We are running a parallel system of governance where all the necessary stakeholders happen to be hands in glove to save the culprits. The upshot of this discussion would always remain lack of tolerance, extremism, lack of proper religious understanding plus primitive societal taboos,” concludes Mohammad Faheem Wali.