Seminar on honour killing: ‘Changing mindset govt’s responsibility’
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: Speakers shed light on various causes of honour killings and suggested ways to tackle the issue at a seminar on ‘Prevention of honour killings in Sindh’, organised by the Sindh police at a local hotel on Thursday. Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza was the chief guest.
Additional IGP Saud Ahmed, the first speaker, said the Sindh police was aware of its social responsibilities and taking many steps to grapple with issues like honour killing, arranging seminars and discussions was one of the many steps.
DIG East Abdul Khaliq Shaikh, the director of the ‘Prevention of Karo-Kari Project’ sponsored by the UNDP, gave details of the project and said one of the traits of a civilised society was how its vulnerable sections were treated. He said though honour killings took place in all parts of the country, it was Sindh from where most cases were reported, so it was decided that the project be launched primarily in four districts of the province namely Sukkur, Ghotki, Naushehro Feroz and Khairpur. However, the project was not Sindh-specific, he clarified. He talked at length about how the police department was sensitised to make the one-year project a success.
Prof Mohammad Wasim Akmal traced the history of honour killings. He blamed the Objectives Resolution (1949) for not letting Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s dream of a welfare state come true, arguing wherever there was ‘malookiat’, women were ‘commodified’. He said honour killings were not something that existed in Pakistan alone, but were there in every part of the world where there’s involvement of religion in matters of the state.
MPA Humaira Alwani informed the audience that in 2009, 16,000 women were killed for different reasons and there were 1,980 cases of kidnapping. She said that to her, honour killing was like targeted killing because it’s a well-thought-out act of murder and later on the killer sought relief citing different flimsy excuses. She observed that in 99 per cent of such cases, honour wasn’t the main reason. “It’s because women resist against being the property of men… women want to lead their lives the way they want and this becomes the reason for their killing.”
Ms Alwani said some of the laws had flaws in them. She touched upon the qisas and diyat law, and said out-of-court settlements made the victim’s case meaningless. Qisas and diyat shouldn’t apply to karo-kari cases, she suggested.
The MPA said murder in the name of honour should be considered an act of terrorism and there must be zero tolerance for the culprit.
She said jirga was a parallel judicial system where the fate of innocent young girls was decided. It should be banned.
Sindh Police IG Babar Khattak initiated his talk by suggesting that the audience consider three points: (1) integrity of law – whether it’s implemented in letter and spirit; (2) writ of law – if law could be enforced; (3) is society ready to accept the law? He said the purpose of the project was to have society on board. He said we needed to take the message to those who didn’t subscribe to the idea that honour killing was not right.
Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza started off by acknowledging the speeches delivered before him saying listening to them was education for him. He said problems such as honour killings emerged at places where male-domination was a norm. He turned down the notion of honour (ghairat), and said it was the ‘exploiters’ who provoked people into committing such crimes. He claimed these things spread like cancer in Sindh during Gen Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship.
He agreed with one of the speakers, Shahab Utso, that it was the state’s duty to change the mindset (tribal, feudal and macho) of men. He told the audience that in Gen Zia’s time, laws were made because of which relatives of the victim and the culprit easily made compromises making it difficult for the police to register the FIR. He said Sufi poet Shah Latif through his verses touched on virtually all aspects of life but no one could find anything on karo-kari in his poetry which proved that the issue was not an old one. He said that a woman MPA was making an unnecessary fuss over the recent murder of Kainat Soomro’s brother without knowing its details. He said there were people who did politics by exploiting the dead.
The home minister vowed to take action against those who held jirgas.
In the end, DIG Headquarters Ghulam Nabi Memon extended his gratitude to the participants and other audience.