Playing with people’s hearts

The horrific murder of 17-year-old Sumera in Karachi’s Orangi Town sent shockwaves around the globe

Aine Moorad May 12, 2016
The writer is a freelance journalist, editor and owner of, a writing and editing boutique

A few days ago, the horrific murder of 17-year-old Sumera in Karachi’s Orangi Town sent shockwaves around the globe. The act was committed by the victim’s brother Hayat in the name of honour. The accused claimed that his sister was conversing with a boy at the doorstep of their home. This infuriated him, compelling him to stab her multiple times.

Raw footage captured by an onlooker revealed Sumera writhing in pain outside her home, as the perpetrator sat beside her, playing with his cell phone — waiting for his sister to die a painful and horrid death. And onlookers didn’t do much either. They just watched.

Though honour killings are rampant in Pakistan, what struck me about this incident was that there was not an ounce of remorse or guilt on Hayat’s face. More disturbing was when other family members were interviewed, none of them exhibited any signs of sorrow either. Not a tear. Not a shred of compassion in memory of Sumera. Even the brutality of the manner in which she was murdered was sanctioned by Sumera’s family. In fact, they supported the boy’s act — some went as far as saying they would have killed her too.

Shocking. Baffling. Heartbreaking. These are just some words that come to mind. The tragedy raises many questions, one being: what is causing people like Hayat and his family members to feel no sorrow at the death of a family member? Even animals feel remorse when their loved ones die. Though laws are intact so perpetrators like Hayat face punitive criminal sentences, the question that authorities need to ask themselves is: what can we do to deter such men from committing acts of brutality in the first place? How can we instil values of integrity, responsibility, fairness and compassion in society? How can we develop, guide and sustain the moral compass of individuals like Hayat? Ethics and character development education could be the answer.

Jim Kestner, a US-based character development specialist, once said: “Ethical values represent a recognition of the importance of service to others, responsibility to self, and an understanding of the importance of respecting others and disciplining ourselves to do things that may not always be pleasant, for the good of all.” The outcome of character education is just that. To inculcate values in students in the hope that they learn the difference between right and wrong, just and unjust behaviour, equality and discrimination.

Gaining prominence worldwide, this type of education has reportedly reduced violence, lowered disciplinary issues and improved academic performance in students, among other benefits. The focus of our education system should be on producing good human beings because that is essentially what will help our society bind and build as a nation.

This tragedy also reflects the value of women in mainstream Pakistan, and the patriarchal nature of society. Many women are merely treated as objects who are confined to the home, and restricted in their daily activities. Besides introducing character education in all facets of the curriculum, the government must also consider dispersing outreach workers in low-income communities, where such incidents are more rampant, so they can conduct civic education and human rights training for adults and teens.

It’s about time the government dealt head on with this national crisis. Clearly, all other ways, have yet to prove their worth.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2016.

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Kamran | 8 years ago | Reply Agreed ! This is an issue that has to be dealt with and a solution is necessary. It's a national tragedy and a course of action must follow to fix the issue. The government is the only entity who can have some impact on the public educational system. This can't be handled by anyone else. The law and order, our own faith, or any other measure is not working and something must be done. Very Well written. we have lost our conscious as Pakistanis and something must be done to revive it.
Zeeshan Manzar | 8 years ago | Reply Liberal fascista why do you get enjoyment from degrading Pakistan in the public.
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