The brutal murder of a couple in Sukkur after they were declared “karo” and “kari” by their families highlights the deplorable human rights situation in Pakistan. According to a news report in The Express Tribune, four armed men gunned down a man and his wife, while they were sleeping in their house on the morning of June 13. The two had registered their marriage in a Sukkur court against the wishes of their families. No FIR was filed and the police handed over the body of the deceased to their families, who were most likely involved in the killings.
The murder of couples declared “karo” and “kari” constitutes one of the worst human rights offences and is shockingly common in Pakistan. Couples who contract a “free will” marriage are often hunted down by their families and killed, or forced to flee the country. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Annual Report, at least 943 women were killed in the name of honour in 2011. Social acceptability for this crime is distressingly high and an Aurat Foundation study shows that most cases highlighted in the media are never actually reported to the police. The crime is often a cover for settling property disputes and it is mainly the victim’s family members who carry it out.
Those who call for the murder of these couples and declare them karo and kari — in this particular case, clans in the Brohi tribe — should be brought to book and held responsible for the killings. Though the 2004 amendment to the PPC and CrPC defines karo kari as murder, it falls short of giving protection to victims and ensuring punishments to the perpetrators. Karo kari needs to be made non-compoundable so that out-of-court settlements are no longer possible and the social acceptability of the crime is reduced. At the same time, it is critical to sensitise and train the police. Most importantly, eradicating illiteracy should be a main concern since the crime is linked to low literacy levels.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2013.
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