It is highly unusual for honour crime victims to be electrocuted but that is probably what caused the recent deaths of a 15-year-old bride and 17-year-old groom in a neighbourhood of Karachi. The teenage couple, according to police investigations, were tied separately to a charpoy and given electric shocks by members of their own families — all because they dared to elope and contract a free-will marriage. Confirmation will come only after their bodies are exhumed for a postmortem examination on September 13th (Wednesday) under the supervision of a magistrate and a medico-legal officer. The punishment is believed to have been sanctioned by a jirga or a council of elders who described the couple’s elopement as an act that brought dishonour upon their families. The bodies of the two victims were secretly buried in a graveyard in Sherpao Colony. Not even an attempt at pretense was made to show the two had an accidental death.
The role of the police is perhaps one of the bright spots in the case. For once law enforcers seemed to have acted swiftly and fearlessly guided by their professional instincts, rather than short-term pecuniary gains. The fathers of the two victims as well as some other family members were rounded up and they promptly confessed to their crime and the jirga’s ruling. Not surprisingly the members of the 30-man jirga have gone into hiding.
Honour crimes are virtually unstoppable in rural settlements of the city and despite last year’s legislation that recommended a 25-year jail term for those who commit such murders the number of female and male victims continues to swell. More than 500 people are killed in the country over mistaken notions of honour every year.
The jirga played a fiendish role in the whole episode. Even after the families of the teenage couple had agreed to get them married following a financial settlement, it insisted the pair was liable for murder and threatened both families with dire consequences if they failed to carry out the extrajudicial killings.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2017.