KARACHI: Honour killing or karo kari is a centuries-old tradition that has roots in the rural areas of Pakistan, where it is significantly under-reported and has now taken a more gruesome turn for the worse, hitting urban centres of the posh localities of the country.
This was the crux of the discussion by various speakers at the book launch of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Nafisa Shah’s ‘Honour Unmasked’ on Wednesday evening at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
Delivering his keynote address at the book launch, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that honour killing is a strong human rights issue in Pakistan. “It’s not only a tribal tradition but has even struck urban communities across Pakistan,” he said. The young politician argued that there is no moral rationale behind these torturous killings where relatives get away with it because of the lack of implementation of laws in Pakistan.
“It is for my generation to find a solution to this problem but it’s a dangerous topic to be dealt with,” said Bilawal, citing the fact that the United Nations had intervened and tried to solve the murder of his late mother, Benazir Bhutto, but even his family could not get justice. However, he made a promise, “I am here making a commitment that every child, every woman in Pakistan, is as special as Benazir Bhutto”.
“This is violence and this is murder, let’s channel our energy towards protecting our mothers and sisters,” he urged. “If these tormenters harm even a strand of hair on the head of a Pakistani woman we will protect her,” Bilawal vowed.
The PPP chairperson said, “There is no honour in killing, this is most dishonorable thing to do, our first step should be to condemn this act”.
He called out for feminists and activists to root out this injustice. “Just as democracy promotes moderation, gender equality promotes equal opportunities,” he said, adding that he will stand by these words via his party mandate, policies and politics.
Nafisa said that four strong women shaped the person in her – her political mentor Benazir Bhutto, Newsline magazine editor Razia Bhatti under whom she first began investigating honour killing, her teacher Helen Caloway and her mother Husn Afroz. She called for strong implementation of the law against honour killing and said, “This should be a step forward”.
The book is a combination of 10 years of field work and six years of scholarly work, she explained.
Nafisa’s father, former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, lamented that his daughter had gained far more enemies by exposing the truth about honour killing. Writer Noorul Huda Shah said, “This is not research, rather it’s an account of the horrifying tales that Nafisa Shah has heard”.
“Sadly, it is a crude crime that engulfs our lives and [Nafisa] aptly writes ‘the plot does not change, the characters do’,” said the writer.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2016.