As if the reasons for which women are killed in Pakistan were not enough, helping a friend marry the man she loves has become the latest sin in the list of transgressions that seal a woman’s fate.
Killing a woman for marrying out of her free will, talking to a boy or just for dressing as she pleases will no longer satisfy the bloodlust of self-appointed judges. Even a woman who dares to help her friend escape her village will meet a cruel end.
The ambit of what triggers a community to kill one of its members is getting wider and ghastlier. And such communities become abusive in attempts to establish that their so-called reputations are not to be taken lightly. More often than not, the crimes these communities commit go unpunished because rule of law and the safeguards offered by a caring state are absent.
The murder of 16-year-old Ambreen in Abbottabad is yet another indication of the fact that rule of law is in this region is on a downward slide.
Ordinary young women of Ambreen’s age often prank call guys they have a crush on. They send them love notes if they are bolder. But mostly, they just look outside a window and daydream an ever-after fantasy with them. It’s a natural part of their biology and hormonal flux.
Ambreen perhaps vicariously lived out hers for her friend Saima. She helped Saima, and the boy who her friend loved, escape the Makol village to marry.
In tribal communities like Makol, a woman exercising her right to determine the course of her love life is viewed as anathema. And so, as long as women hand over the reigns of their womanhood and sexuality to a male guardian and a broader community, no one gets killed. But when they choose to command it, they risk their lives.
The hideousness of Ambreen’s murder has a stickiness factor. The image of her charred body at the back of the van she was set ablaze in, is too horrifying to fathom.
Blackened eye sockets where her eyes once were — with which she may have dreamt and wished her friend a better life. She was drugged and tied to a van, possibly unconscious when she was set alight.
What’s more grating is that a 15-member jirga called by the Makol village elders decreed that Ambreen be punished in this precise manner for helping her friend escape.
So while there are several ways out for perpetrators of crimes against women to go scot-free by getting the victim’s family to forgive, there is no option of appeal that these so-called jirgas — which repeatedly trounce the basic rights of women — offer their female victims, even when they are minors.
Thankfully, those behind Ambreen's murder will be tried in an anti-terrorism court. And that, while a solace in some ways is inconsequential in others.
For us to move forward, the state must recognise its responsibilities towards all its citizens and take concerted action against jirgas that routinely order killings, rapes, vani and other heinous crimes.
To Ambreen, justice is too little, too late. She was born in a world where we cannot figure out that women, despite what any religious text may say, are just caged souls who just might want boys to like them.
That women just want to be able to love without death. Kind of like men do.
In a world where there is equality in choosing partners, the horrendous men would be left in a corner. But such a world is unfathomable to these self-styled courts and this is perhaps why I am yet to hear a story where a jirga ruled in favour of women.
Read: A country of dead women
We need to start seeing that it is time for our society to recognise its follies and take corrective steps if we want to come anywhere near countries that are now at the pinnacle of science and progress.
And for us to move forward, the state must recognise its responsibilities towards all its citizens and take concerted action against such self-styled courts that routinely order killings, rapes, vani and other heinous crimes.
Until that happens, our Ambreens will keep getting murdered.