For some of the deceased in Sindh, there are no prayers for a peaceful afterlife and no on comes to put flowers on their graves. Those slain for honour are not spared even in death.
There is a separate graveyard for those killed under the pretext of karo-kari (honour killing) called ‘karan jo qabrustan’ (graveyard for the dishonoured) near Daharki. At this graveyard, built by the Shar clan, people are buried without last rites and men guard the graves so nobody can visit them and offer Fateha. Even in death, the punishment continues.
While the custom of karo-kari prevails throughout Sindh, some clans as Shar Bozdar, Pitafi and Jakhrani are particularly notorious for killing people under the custom.
Shar Bozdar and Pitafi clans are concentrated mainly in Ghotki and Kashmore, while the Jakhrani tribe is spread in areas over Jacobabad and Kashmore.
In these tribes, the custom of killing in the name of honour flourishes to serve many other ulterior motives. According to dictates of people from the tribes and other smaller communities, men manipulate this atrocious custom to get rid of their wives and marry a lover, to get monetary benefit or share in property among other things.
According to a Sindh-based, women’s rights NGO, Samaj Foundation, the number of women killed in Sindh was 284 in 2009, while in 2010 it fell to 266. The foundation has statistics until June 30 this year, where a total of 155 cases were recorded.
However, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 675 women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family’s honour.
Kiran Daudpoto, director of Samaj Foundation, has too many unfortunate stories to share. In June 2011, Arzana, a young widow, was killed and buried in her courtyard by her father-in-law and brother-in -law who wanted to sell her to an elderly man.
In another incident four years ago, 82-year-old Mai Bhagul was branded kari by her son who had used up her savings for Hajj instead of making arrangements for the pilgrimage. Such stories are many, some more brutal than the rest.
There are various explanations as to how this custom found its way in Sindh. Accounts of historians relate it to the pre-Islamic era.
They say the custom reached the sub-continent in the 17th century when some Arab descendants, who used to bury their daughters alive, came to settle in Balochistan. Killing young and old women in the name of honour was common practice for them. Later, when the British tried to prohibit the custom by announcing the death penalty for the perpetrators, people started throwing women in wells and claiming they were suicide cases. When the authorities discovered that this tactic was being used, poisonous snakes used to kill women instead.
Human rights activist Samar Minallah says the Sardars, elected representatives and influential people are to blame for the practice. “These people can stop such incidents as the decision of declaring people Kari or to barter girls and equal scores rests in the Jirga. But they don’t stand for justice so their voters don’t get angry.”
However, the Sardars of the notorious tribes deny the allegation of their unjust behaviour with women and claim there is a lot of respect for women in their community. MPA Sardar Ahmed Ali of the Pitafi tribe said that if ‘Niayani Mair’ (a group of girls) are taken to warring tribes, the elders cover their heads with Ajrak and immediately agree to burry the hatchet. MPA Sardar Rahim Bux from the Bozdar clan also added that women are always kept out of the way of harm even during tribal feuds. Sardar Himmat Ali Kamariyo representing his communities in Kamariyo, Abro, Jeho and Phul Poto communities also defended Sindhi men. “It is wrong to say that the entire Sindhi community is cruel and involved in crimes against women, there are very few such people giving a bad name to all.”
Study claims men are willing to sell or kill their wives
A pilot study on honour killings by Maliha Zia Lari, an advocate, has revealed that some men are willing to sell off their wives, or kill them in order to get rid of them.
According to the advocate, the 2004 criminal law (amendment) has not had the desired impact. She said that since its implementation, honour killings had actually increased.
Lari carried out a study titled, ‘Honour killings in Pakistan and the compliance of law’ in collaboration with the Aurat Foundation’s legislative watch programme for women empowerment.
She said that the research was conducted in 2010 to find out how the criminal law amendment was being implemented and included police, court and community evaluations. The study was conducted in Ghotki, Gujrat, Naseerabad and Nowshera.
“The highest number of cases were reported from Ghotki,” she said. “The least number of cases were reported from Nowshera. However, most of the incidents in Nowshera are not reported.” She added that the biggest limitation to their study was the lack of consolidated data available.
While studying the FIRs, she said that they were gender insensitive as the police preferred to report such incidents as murder instead of honour killings.
She explained the motive behind the authorities reporting karo kari as murder, and said that the reasons cited for murder were usually considered a negative reference to the woman’s character. Elaborating on her point, she said that these usually included details such as the woman leaving her husband or marrying without her family’s consent. She added that nearly 1,636 honour killings were reported in 2011.
The research also included detailed case studies, which according to Lari were easier to access at the high court than the district courts. She said that the Sindh High Court had a couple of recorded honour killing cases while there were no reported cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan. She added that the police did not usually arrest the suspects because of social pressure.
The police perspective
While talking about the authorities attitude towards honour killings, DIG Abdul Khalique Sheikh, said that according to one of their studies nearly 88% of police officers thought that there was no difference between murder and honour killings. He added that for a police officer, karo kari was a family matter.
The DIG said that it investigations for such cases was very problematic as the evidence was hidden and witnesses were unwilling to collaborate.
While talking about the status of an anti-honour killing programme in collaboration with the United Nations, he said that so far they had save 12 girls from getting murdered. He added the date from non-governmental organisations was misleading and exaggerated.
Supreme Court advocate Anwar Mansoor Khan said that many criminals could walk away free because of the option of qisas (blood money) and diyat (financial compensation) in the 2004 criminal law (amendment).
with additional reporting by Rabia Ali
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2012.
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