A woman was reported to have committed suicide over a family dispute by ingesting toxins in Swat on Thursday. According to a senior police official, Moham Bibi, a resident of Charbagh, ingested rat poison.
However, according to local activist Nelam Ibrar, a recent surge in suicides among women in Swat could well possibly be the result of honour killings.
She said there was a high possibility that women—wives , daughters and sisters—were being killed in the name of honour in Swat. “Families report the cause of death to be suicide and police officials are also reluctant to investigate the cases and drag the families to court.”
Not excluding suicide entirely, Ibrar added mental health issues, disabilities and rising poverty in the area contribute towards people ending their lives.
Sumaira Khan, a social activist from Mingora, said after investigating several cases where suicide remained the official cause of death, she realised most of the women did not take their own lives.
“It is a social murder committed by society as a whole and every person has turned a deaf ear towards it,” said Sumaira. She said government officials as well as civil society should take action. “People should be aware and strict laws should be imposed. Suicide cases should be thoroughly investigated and culprits should be punished to prevent future incidents.”
Police and pukhtunwali
Swat DPO Saleem Marwat said the police closely track reported suicide cases.
“However, it is impossible for us to break through the codes of Pukhtun society and investigate family matters,” said Marwat.
He added the police felt helpless about how to investigate and prevent suicide cases. “Even if we were to investigate for foul play, most cases reported as suicide have deceased victims, so there is no one left to question.”
Mingora DSP Ghulam Siddique said most of the suicide cases have been reported from district outskirts and not within the city.
“Certain areas of Swat, such as Khwazakhela, Behrain and Matta, have seen a rise in suicide cases,” said Siddique.
He added the police investigate each death reported within their jurisdiction. However, the cases are closed as soon as the deceased is declared to have committed suicide.
“We cannot solve personal and family disputes until and unless the social structure of our society allows us,” said Siddique.
The DSP said people in the region prefer to solve their problems inside the house instead of going to court and police stations.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2015.