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Home > Women’s Rights > Custom of Honour Killings, Business As Usual

Illegal tribal jirgas make a mockery of the rule of law

Custom of Honour Killings, Business As Usual

some opinions and reports in the Pakistan media

by Daily Times, Samina Wahid Perozani, Shahid Husain, 31 October 2008

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1.

The News, November 1, 2008

Murder most foul

by Samina Wahid Perozani

Eight months have passed since 17-year-old Tasleem Solangi was killed, the same number of months that she was pregnant before she was forced to go into early labour by midwife in Khairpur. The baby was thrown into a canal, the fornicating Tasleem was fed to the dogs and then shot, and the matter was finally put to rest of the "kari" who brought shame to both her family and in-laws.

At least, that is how this riddled-with-complexities story goes. But, to be fair, there’s nothing new about this tale. If anything, it’s the oldest story in the book – that of Original Sin. The plot goes something like this – woman entices man to do unmentionable things, man gives into his carnal urges. Then man repents and wants redemption so finally society intervenes and makes an example out of she who must not be named. The natural order of things is restored and a lesson learnt.

Yet, there is something particularly heart-wrenching about this tragedy. While it is not uncommon for us to read about victims of honour killings on a routine basis, the fact that Tasleem was pregnant but was still forced to pay for her father’s "mistakes," is enough to churn one’s stomach. Reports indicate that since Tasleem’s father had property, his brother had his heart set on acquiring it. Not surprisingly, it led to a family dispute. In a bid to smooth things over between the two families, Tasleem decided to marry her cousin (uncle’s son), hoping it would resolve the issue once and for all. It didn’t. Earlier this year, a very pregnant Tasleem was declared "kari" by the jirga and her father-in-law, and, thus, murdered. Her father, on the other hand, was held captive (till recently) in order to coerce him to part with his land.

Now, I am a cynic and I do believe that the jirga will reign supreme till the end of time in the tribal, rural areas of the country. No Women’s Protection Bill or amendments to the Hurdood Ordinance can change that. The jirga knows all; that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing anyone of us can do about it.

Still, I wonder what the jirga was thinking when it decided that Tasleem should be declared kari regardless of the fact that she was carrying a child? Forget the fuzzy logic that defines tribal laws, the intrigues and the underhandedness of scheming, greedy relatives. Forget about all of that for a minute and consider this: Tasleem was about to have a baby. Even if the baby was fathered by someone else than her husband – according to her in-laws – please explain to me how it is acceptable to the baby?

The men who comprise the jirga are wise, or so I’ve been told. How, then, could they not see that it’s never okay to murder an infant in any culture or religion of the world, orthodox or otherwise? I could be wrong here, but to me this seems like a moral failure. While the world suffers from a financial crunch with countries trying to pull themselves out of an economic quagmire, Pakistan is coping with perhaps the worst kind of moral bankruptcy that it has seen in a very long time.

Still, we choose to do nothing about it, and we have a very good reason for making that choice. You see, as a society, we love shirking our responsibilities. Whether its work or home or relationships, we just don’t want to be held responsible for anything that happens in our lives or that of others because it’s too big a burden to carry. So, we shy away from anything that entails us being "in-charge." This is also why we are happy to let others make our decisions for us, be it parents, spouses, clerics or even the jirga. As long as we are not required to shoulder the blame, we’re happy to close our eyes and hand over all moral and social responsibility to just about any questionable figure around. That way, our conscience remains clear and life is less complicated. Because then it doesn’t matter if this complete absolution means a baby has to die or a woman must be fed to the dogs. We don’t get blamed. And even if someone comes around, asking questions about our dubious moral and religious high ground, we can just roll over and say, "But the jirga said so…, go take it up with them." So, yes, the natural order of things has been restored. As Radiohead would say: "Everything in its right place." Indeed.

2.

Daily Times, 31 October 2008

Editorial: A case that robs Pakistan of all hope

Parents of 18-year-old Tasleem Solangi, who was killed in an extremely inhumane manner in a village of Khairpur by some members of her tribe, have appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah to provide them protection as the “killers are still at large and have not been arrested because of their connections with the police”. Attention should be paid to the word “protection”. They did not ask for “justice” whose abandonment describes in a nutshell the plight of Pakistan today. Citizens no longer expect the state to give them justice; they are appealing for security they no longer have.

The girl was a matriculate with longings to improve her family’s life. She was married to a cousin of her own choice thereby to end a family feud. But the tribal elders were not satisfied. The fire of revenge burnt underneath what passed for normal social life till the device of “karo-kari” — a curse of the province of Sindh — was used to undo her violently. The real dispute was over land. The cousins declared her “karo”, that is, detected in the act of having sexual relations with some man other than her husband. What they did after that should make all Pakistanis hang their head in shame.

Tasleem and her one-year-old child were thrown in front of a pack of wild dogs. The child was eaten alive while she was wounded. After that she was shot dead. Tasleem’s mother says this was nothing new. Her elder daughter had also been declared “karo” and before that she too nearly got killed after being declared as such. The ritual of getting rid of women in Sindh in this manner is grotesque. After being killed they are not even buried in the normal graveyards, not even given a Muslim burial. The whole of Sindh knows it but does nothing. The police sides with the killers in deference to “custom”. The policemen probably do it to their women too.

A special force against “karo-kari” has to be set up in Sindh with extraordinary powers. The local police have to be pushed aside. Families involved in this despicable custom must be picked up and made to face speedy trial under laws especially made to end “karo-kari”. A lot of research on the subject is available. The areas where it is rampant are also known. President Asif Zardari must order the Sindh chief minister to move quickly and bring order in the countryside that is his constituency and where life has been made hell for women. *

3.

The News, October 28, 2008

Desperate father seeks justice from high-ups

by Shahid Husain
Karachi

Gul Sher, 57, is desperate to seek justice from authorities concerned after his daughter Tasleem Khatoon Solangi, 17, was brutally murdered on March 7 this year in Hajna Shah Village, Taluka Bara Masi Goth, district Khairpur, Sindh. Ironically, he was put in confinement in his own house by his brother.

“I escaped from my own house on Oct 16 and came to Karachi. I have no option but to seek the help of the media so that the culprits are arrested,” he told The News on Monday. He was accompanied by his son Asif Ali Solangi and two daughters.

Gul Sher said he married his daughter Tasleem Khatoon to his nephew Mohammad Ibrahim some two years ago. But his brother Zamir Ahmed and father-in-law of Tasleem pressurised her to bring the documents of a piece of land owned by him (Sher Khan).

In order to justify the cruel murder, a “Jirga” was held in May this year which accused Tasleem of having an illicit relationship with Abdul Qayyum, a prosperous person of the area. The “Jirga” was held at Hajna Shah Goth under the chairmanship of Sain Dad Solangi, the chieftain of Solangi tribe.

With tears in his eyes, Gul Sher narrated the horrific tale of his daughter’s murder. He said that Tasleem was brought in front of Gul Sher’s house and thrown in front of dogs that bit her. When she was no more able to resist the dogs, she fell down and was shot dead by Zameer Solangi.

He said that he tried to lodge an FIR with the area Station House Officer (SHO) Ghulam Sarwar Dario but instead of arresting the culprits, he urged him to settle the dispute in a “Jirga”.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) taking note of the gruesome murder of Tasleem Khatoon have urged the government to arrest the culprits forthwith.

“The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government to have a proper investigation into the horrific murder of Ms Tasleem Solangi on the pretext of honour killing. The dreadful death of this innocent girl was purely for the purpose of grabbing her father’s land. This is yet another example of the use of honour killings in order to settle personal disputes,” a statement released by the AHRC released on Sunday said.

“The writ of the provincial government is looking very week before the powerful and political personalities. The political expediency to get more support from usurpers has weakened the legal systems of the country. The government of should take immediate action in this case,” it said.

“Tribal Jirgas are illegal but they continue to decide the fate of helpless and poor people in the interior of Sindh and Balochistan making a mockery of law and portray Pakistan to be a barbaric society even in the 21st century,” Abdul Hai of the HRCP told The News.