Legislation on karo kari
By Mansoor Akbar Kundi
The government decision to bring about legislation to end Karo kari is laudable. This centuries old practice is an unfortunate reflection on our tribal culture and it is safeguarded in a number of areas as the tribal norm against the common British law. For instance the agreements Robert Sandeman entered with the Baloch tribes of Dera Ghazi Khan and Balochistan in 1873-76 included the continuation of a number of tribal norms and privileges as the tribal values within given autonomy, Karo kari being one of them.
The investigation of a recent karo kari case in Southern Balochistan involving double murder revealed a story thus: A man in love with a girl wanted to marry her but his wife refused to give her consent. So he devised a ploy to get rid of her. One evening he invited a man from a fertilizer company who used to visit him occasionally. As the guest entered the house, the man shot him dead as well as his wife. He alleged that they were siakar.
According to the tehsildar investigating the case, the man faced a trial for murder but, usually happens in such cases, was acquitted on the grounds of “grave and sudden provocation” and because there was no witness supporting the innocence of the victim. Besides, his wife’s family refused to allow her post-mortem, as it would be against its honor.
A close witness revealing an other case of karo kari told me: “A man wanted his father-in-law to give his daughter’s (the man’s wife) share of land, threatening to kill her as a siakar (adulterer) if this was not done. The father-in-law, who had registered a large piece of land in his daughter’s name to protect himself against the land reforms, refused. A year later, the girl was killed by her husband after he accused her of siakari (adultery).”
Land figures as the motive behind a number of karo kari killings. Two brothers were reported to have killed their sister for the sake of the land registered in her name by their deceased father. The co-accused siakar in this case was a close friend of one of the brothers. The brothers alleged that this friend, a frequent visitor to the house, had developed a relationship with their sister. “One night he was sprayed with bullets along with the sister for siakari. Most people believe that the brothers wanted to get rid of her for the sake of land,” said a man from their area.
In karo kari cases majority of victims are female. There is hardly a case in which a man is reported to have killed his son or brother for being siakar. Most cases relate to men killing their wives, sisters, or sisters-in-law after accusing them of having an illicit relationship with a male.
Our societal set up is the one reason why women, mostly less educated or illiterate. become easy target. Once labelled siakar, they find no asylum outside and it is a disgrace to their family to allow them to live. The major factor brought into play in such killings is the perception of honor, which has more to do with male chauvinism than ethics or religion. karo kari killings flout the basic precepts of a modern and civilised society, which requires a fair trail of an accused based on just and an honest eye-witness testimony.
Karo kari cases are not always registered under Pakistan Penal Code Section 302 by police; they should be. In certain tribal areas which may not fall under the administrative control of the police, the relatives of the murdered man/woman appeal to the deputy commissioners on the basis of tribal and family honor, to hand over the body to them without a post-mortem. In far-flung rural areas, the plea is reinforced by the excuse that there are no female doctors available to examine the female deceased.
In rare cases a plea is made for the medical examination to be held: it usually comes from the relatives of a man accused and killed for siakari. Such an examination can prove that the real motive for the murder was not in fact siakari. Influence and money often come into play in such cases, to force medical and district authorities against conducting medical examination.
A medical doctor in Jacobabad district came across a siakari case in which a young girl was killed by her elder brother in order to avoid repaying a loan of 10 thousands Rs. he borrowed. The man used to visit the brother to press for his money. The man asked the creditor to come over one night to get the loan back. When he arrived, he was asked to wait inside on the pretext that the money was with an uncle living in the back of the house. Instead of the money , however, he returned with a kalashnikove and killed him along with his own sister who was also present in the house. Later, they put both the bodies closer to each other to make them look guilty. The deceased’s brother insisted for the post-mortem which did not confirm the charge. But the matter was hushed up for inexplicable reasons.
The reports supported the facts that in many cases in which a male victim is lured into visiting the house of the murderer, are obviously pre-meditated, and far from the ‘grave and sudden provocation’ that is used as an excuse for the killing.
A police officer who investigated a large number of karo kari cases admitted that quite often, examination of the injuries inflicted on the victim and the evidence provided by medical examination that no sexual offense actually had taken place. But the killer usually justifies his action on the grounds that he was emotionally carried away by the thought that a sexual offense would have taken place if he had not committed the murder. A common plea is that the deceased were known to have established an illegal relationship but had just not been caught in the act.
It is because the law is lenient with those who have murdered on the ‘grave and sudden provocation’, and because law enforcers are sympathetic to what they perceive as “honor killings” that this continues to be used as an excuse for cold-blooded murder. And instead of abating, the practice seems to be increasing with time — a tragic reality in this land of the pure.
Source: The Nation