ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers unanimously adopted the anti-honour killing and anti-rape bills at Thursday’s joint session of parliament, mandating up to life terms for those who kill for ‘honour’ and increasing the punishment for some rape offences.
The new law only allows family members to pardon the killer and save him or her from the death penalty. However, the murderer would still face a mandatory sentence — if convicted of the killing. The impetus for the bill came after a series of high-profile killings in the name of honour.
During the debate over the bill in parliament, Law and Justice Minister Zaid Hamid said his government had plugged all loopholes in the anti-honour killing legislation. But the opposition led by the Pakistan Peoples Party contested the claim, insisting that not all loopholes had been removed.
A committee comprising lawmakers from both the lower and upper houses of parliament unanimously approved the two bills on July 21. Both the bills were originally laid before the Senate in January 2014 by ex-senator Sughra Imam as a private member’s bill.
Upon the expiry of Imam’s term, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar followed up and steered through the bills. However, they could not even make their way in the joint sitting of parliament in April this year, mainly due to opposition from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F).
If a person kills someone in the name of honour, he or she will get the mandatory 25-year prison term. Making it more severe, it has been proposed that the accused will get life imprisonment even if he or she gets waver under Qisas and Diyat and it will also be non-commutable.
Although unanimously passed by the parliamentary committee, the bill ran into sudden opposition from the PPP.
The party’s senators — including Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar and Sherry Rehman along with MNA Naveed Qamar, Nafisa Shah and Shazia Marri — were of the view that the government should not have hastily moved forward with the bill. They suggested that the bill be sent to a committee for a review.
“The bill is not in its original shape as presented by former senator Imam which termed honour killing a non-compoundable crime,” Aitzaz said, adding; however, the bill considered the crime compoundable.
Ahsan stated that he had several examples from his own experience that two brothers or males of a family decided to kill their sister or daughter in the name of honour or land dispute while the other gets away with the help of Qisas and Diyat.
JUI-F’s Senator Hafiz Hamdullah was arraigned by several lawmakers for “justifying honour killings and misuse of Qisas and Diyat provisions.”
Senator Rehman also stated that in its current form the bill would not stop honour killers as “we must shut the door”.
Parliamentary leader of the PPP Naveed Qamar talked about the death sentence and said the murderer should know that he was taking a life and his life would also be taken.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Captain (retd) Safdar also suggested that the bill should be sent to a committee for revision.
The debate frustrated Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who wanted to let the bill go through the session. To this, Qamar said the PPP would still be bringing an amendment to the bill and make it in its original shape.
By contrast, the anti-rape bill saw smooth sailing. The bill makes the DNA test mandatory in investigations as part of the procedure for such cases. According to the bill, rape of minors, as well as the mentally and physically ill, would become punishable by death.
Through another amendment enhanced punishment has been provided for rape in police stations and rape of minors and mentally handicapped. The new legislation also deletes from Qanun-e-Shahadat the provision relating to questioning the character of the victim of rape as it has also been made punishable.
The identity of a rape victim will also be protected under the legislation. Besides, under the new law, tampering with the investigation or hampering it would also be considered a crime.
PM congratulates parliament, nation
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated parliament and the entire nation on the passage of the anti-honour killing bill.
“I congratulate parliament, the NGOs, civil society, academia, media and all those who worked hard and supported us in the passage of this legislation,” the prime minister said in a statement.
He said honour killing was one of the most critical problems that Pakistan had been facing and the government was determined to adopt all possible ways to remove this stain from society.
“We have succeeded in our efforts today; there is no honour in honour killing,” the prime minister remarked.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2016.