ISLAMABAD: The proposed legislation on honour killings has introduced strict punishment for the convicts making it tougher than the ordinary murder cases.
However, legal experts are of the view that after killing a relative in the name of honour, a person may declare it a simple murder to avoid the punishment.
Under the existing law, a murderer can be released after the legal heirs pardon him. But the proposed legislation on honour killings recommends 25 years’ imprisonment even if the heirs of the victim pardon the convict. Under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the convict in a simple murder case may get the life imprisonment of 14 years or a maximum of the death penalty.
Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, a criminal law expert and the president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, said the legislation on honour killings would not achieve the desired results as the accused may claim that he had committed the murder for other reasons such as a dispute over property etc. Hence, he may be charged with Section 302 of the PPC and the family members may pardon him under Section 309 of the PPC.
Experts suggest amending law of evidence, put onus on judges
Moreover, in honour killing cases the police as well as the courts follow the same procedure and rely on the same evidence as they would require in ordinary murder cases.
The collection of evidence in honour killing cases is very difficult and this is the reason a person after killing his daughter, sister or mother cannot be convicted, he said.
He suggested that the lawmakers should amend Qanoon-i-Shahadat (the law of evidence) for honour killing cases and the standard of evidence should be relaxed which would increase the possibility of conviction.
Instead of direct evidence – testimonies of the witnesses – reliance should be made on the circumstantial evidence which may be the electronic evidence or other related facts.
The Anti-Honour Killings Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Anti-Rape Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Bill 2015, initially moved by former senator of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sughra Imam as private members’ bills, were passed by the Senate two years ago.
But the government failed to get the bills passed by the National Assembly within the stipulated 90 days and later had to include them on the agenda of a joint sitting of parliament, which had actually been convened to get the PIA conversion bill passed.
The honour killings bill aims at preventing killing of women in the name of honour by making the crime a non-compoundable offence.
When contacted, Senator Saeed Ghani, who was a member of the committee which cleared the bill, told Dawn that honour killings had certain distinctions. He explained that in a simple murder case the deceased may not be a family member.
The investigation officer may ascertain whether the murder was honour killing or otherwise, he said.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan, the special assistant to the prime minister who headed the government legal team which drafted the law, said it was the responsibility of the court to make a distinction between a simple murder and an honour killing.
He said: “The judge will decide whether it is a simple murder or a murder in the name of honour.”
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2016