By Israruddin Isar
Ms. Norani, a 16-year-old girl resident of Khomar Gilgit, allegedly committed suicide on the morning of Oct. 22, 2015. Police recorded her mother’s statement and declared it as ‘a case of suicide’ and closed the file after entering the case in daily diary of Jutial police station Gilgit. However, some social and political activists were suspicious that the case was not a suicide, but an apparent case of honor killing.
They reached out to some human rights organizations in Gilgit about the case, after which the civil society intervened into the matter and took up the matter with the police high ups, and the chief mister’s office in Gilgit. They demanded that authorities carry out an inquiry into the matter.
After the inquiry, police arrested the culprit on the basis of postmortem report and statements of relatives of the victim recorded under Section 174 in The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. However, the victim’s mother forgave the culprit as per the provisions of Diayat law, hence the offender was soon released.
According to the figures of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Gilgit office, the ratio of crime in the name of honor has increased to an alarming level in the area for last many years. According to HRCP Gilgit, the average number of crimes in the name of honor received from across GB stands at five cases per month.
According to the month-wise comparative chart of 2015, the figure of reported crimes in the name of honor were: 6 in January, 6 in February, 3 in March, 4 in April, 3 in May, 7 in June, 4 in July, 9 in August, 9 in September, 3 in October and 6 in November, adding up the total number of reported cases to 60 by Nov. this year.
From Jan. to Nov., 44 persons have been killed in the name of honor in Gilgit Baltistan, majority of them female. Five people were killed in Jan., 4 in Feb., 2 in March, 4 in April, 2 in May, 4 in June, 3 in July, 9 in Aug., 5 in Sep. 2 in Oct. and 4 in Nov.
In such cases, women are particularly the target of male members of their family or community or tribe. In the cases of crime in the name of honor, women or men are killed, harassed or beaten severely. The average figure of honor killing in GB is an average of per 4 per month.
The main causes of crime in the name of honor are so-called illicit relationship between any male and female, love affairs, love marriages, sexual affairs, cross sect love marriages, refusal to force marriages, distrust on the character of female by male members of family, and refusal by females to obey the restriction on outdoor activities e.g. job, education, shopping and visit to offices, relatives and friends etc.
In last three months, two newly married couples were killed in Ghizer because they married as per their choice. Even though targeted killings occur across GB from time to time, but the ratio of honor killing is very high in Diamer district of GB. There is hardly any month of the year when a case of honor killing is not reported from Diamer.
According to research carried out by Mr. Aziz Ahmed and Mr. Sultan Rahim Bercha, two independent researchers on the increasing ratio of female suicide cases in District Ghizer in 2004, 60 percent cases of suicide were actually the cases of honor killing that were disguised as cases of suicide. The study was conducted on the 64 cases of suicide that were reported from 2000 to 2004.
The alarming situation is that the family and community, and even the police, support the culprits of honor crime. Police don’t bother to conduct an inquiry or postmortem if a case is declared suicide by the victim’s family members. Often the culprits of honor killing use the political or religious influence to pressurize the police to desist them from conducting inquiry and postmortem in the cases, which are declared suicide after the murder.
In some cases, if the culprit surrenders in front of police and confesses the offence, he is later on released by court because of pardon by the heirs of victim or complainants, especially on behalf of mother or father under the Diyat Law. Unfortunately, most family member are not ready to become complainant in such cases, and if any one does, he or she would forgive the culprit by pretending that the culprit is only bread earner for his family so and so.
In some cases, it has been witnessed that the crime was conducted by following a proper plan crafted by the whole family. They often select a person from within their family to commit the crime, so he would be helped to escape from sentence by getting the benefit of Diayat law.
Pakistan introduced Qisas and Diyat Ordinance in 1990, amending sections 229 to 338 of Pakistan Penal code. The new Ordinance replaced British era criminal laws on bodily hurt and murder with sharia compliant provisions, as demanded by the Shariat Appellate Bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. The Criminal Procedure Code was also amended to give legal heirs of a murdered person to enter into compromise and accept Diyya compensation, instead of demanding Qisas-based retaliatory penalties for murder or bodily hurt.
The democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif, in 1997, replaced the Ordinance by enacting the Qisas and Diyat sharia provisions as the law, through an Act of its Parliament. The sharia-compliant Qisas and Diyat law made murder a private offense, not a crime against society or state, and thus the pursuit, prosecution and punishment for murder has become the responsibility of the victim’s heirs and guardians.
The Diyat law of Pakistan has proven to be controversial, for a number of reasons. First, a number of cases of honor killings of girls, initiated and arranged with intent by families, have been later forgiven by the same families under the Diyyat law. Second, scholars have cited a number of cases of intentional murder and bodily harm inflicted on the poor by the wealthy, where the guilty escaped legal process and simply paid compensation.
The above facts are the causes of escaping the culprits in the cases of honor killing. In other side the other crimes like harassment and physical violence in the name of honor are not considered the serious crimes.
It is high time to raise a demand by civil society of Gilgit Baltistan that Diyat law should be amended and the state should become complainant in the cases of murders, especially in the cases of honor killing. The second demand should be that the inquiry must be conducted in every case of suicide until it is not proven with the evidence by police in front of magistrate that the case is actual suicide. The third demand should be that the family laws should be extended to GB immediately and family courts should be established in GB with without any delay, so that the cases of domestic violence and divorce and other family matters should be dealt according to the law, because in some cases husband harasses and commits violence against wife and refuses to divorce her when she desires for it.
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