As a reporter, my phone’s contact list is full of ‘sarkari’ numbers that I regularly use to reach ministers, their staff, federal and provincial secretaries and members of parliament just to inquire about the measures they are taking to control human rights violations. So far, none of the officials have responded in a manner which I can deem satisfactory.
I have tried to get in touch with the federal government’s spokesperson, Pervaiz Rashid, who has been delivering many speeches recently, promising that an environment conducive to the provision of human rights would be catered to. But there is still no word from him when he was asked to comment on the recent wave of brutal killings in the country which, quite ironically, are being carried out in the name of ‘honour’.
In broad daylight, outside a building peopled heavily by law enforcers and law protectors, we witnessed one of the most brutal episodes of human rights violation in our lives.
Farzana Iqbal, 25, who married on her own will, was waiting outside the Lahore High Court to appear in a court hearing of a kidnapping case against her husband, which was registered against him by her family. Her father, brothers and former fiancé — before a large gathering which included several police personnel — killed her for tarnishing their ‘honour’ by marrying a man of her choice.
The incident made me numb. Sitting in front of the TV screen, I thought: what is this place that I am living in? Amongst what kind of beasts am I raising my children?
Scores of women are murdered in this country by their family members in the name of ‘honour’ but the government does not even bother to record, collect statistics or take notice of these atrocities. Another incident that occurred very close to Farzana’s murder was the killing of an Ahmadi doctor, Mehdi Ali Qamar. The timing of both these incidents makes them all the more harrowing.
Being a journalist, I thought I had an edge over other citizens when it comes to accessing government functionaries. But it seems that I am wrong. They are chronically silent.
Many thanks to the prime minister though, who, after taking his sweet time, took notice of Farzana’s killing and asked the provincial government to take ‘immediate action’ and submit a report of the incident. Which, needless to say, will rot along with several other reports in some corner of his desk.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2014.