It is high time that the pernicious mendacious phrase ‘honour killings’ was expunged from the lexicon of what has become known as the ‘Muslim world’ and this particular Islamic Republic can take the lead. There should, in this 21st century, be no murders that are justified by the claim of upholding a non-existent ‘honour’.
The perpetration of such killings (reported regularly and sickeningly in our press) is pure and simple premeditated murder and must be treated as such. The killings of women (rarely men) are deliberate, planned and premeditated when men get together, claiming violated honour, and rid themselves of pesky female relatives. They are protected by the Qisas and Diyat law (blood money) which similarly needs to be stricken from Pakistan’s statute books.
This law, cropped up as an ordinance at the time of an interim government in 1990, was re-promulgated with consistency, and finally made into a law in 1997 by our present prime minister in his second coming. Mian Nawaz Sharif executed a great PR coup when he pronounced, following the Oscar nomination of the Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy short documentary (later a deserved second Oscar) on the subject of these premeditated murders, that “there is no honour in honour killings”, echoing the views of the few commentators who have consistently clamoured for action against these murders since the 1990s.
He should be chuffed that the phrase has been printed in bold letters in a full-page advertisement in the International New York Times, inserted by globalcitizen.org/chime whose website gives credit to Obaid-Chinoy for “leading the way to change legislation.”
So, now, what does the prime minister intend to do about legislation? Expunge ‘honour killings’ and substitute premeditated murder. Flush blood money down the national choked-up drain? Take on the jirga system which is as guilty? Dare he? In a previous existence he did away with the Friday weekly holiday (part of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s last ditch stand to save his government) and reverted to Sunday. The heavens did not fall. So, it is possible — that is if he can unentangle himself from his religious right brethren and subdue parliament. Both may pose problems. Who knows how many who sit in the name of democracy in the hallowed legislative houses possess the mindset of a present sitting senator?
In the most honourable Senate sits a supposedly democratically elected senator, Mir Israrullah Zehri, brother of the chief minister of Balochistan. He has the honourable distinction and is on record in the honourable house in 2008 of having upheld the premeditated murder of two (possibly more) women of Balochistan, who were allegedly buried alive in his province in the name of ‘honour’. Zehri’s stance was that the premeditated murder of women who are suspected of ‘immoral acts’ (a neat way of putting it when men wish to rid themselves of troublesome women) are ‘centuries old traditions’, time honoured ‘tribal customs’ which must not be discontinued. How many like-minded companions does he have within and outside parliament? Judging by the reactions to the Obaid-Chinoy film one could say fairly numerous (to put it mildly).
Yes, Obaid-Chinoy has factually depicted Pakistan in its barbaric ugliness; yes, she has factually shown the world what goes on in the Islamic Republic when it comes to attitudes towards women. Her purpose is a wake-up call — and she had the gumption to do it twice and be rewarded. The objectors may screech as they may, but they cannot deny facts. Only Zehri-like champion them.
Now, it is up to the monarch of legislators to show us he meant what he said. And, of course, up to the ‘establishment’ to support him. The next stop is those equally iniquitous laws — blasphemy, equally difficult to tackle given the national mindset. The very fact that it could be deliberated in the apex court of the land as to whether a man could commit premeditated murder and justify it by claiming his victim had committed blasphemy is chilling in the extreme.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2016.
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