IF the state has no tolerance for ‘honour’ crimes, it must not permit a parallel and illegal judicial system to perpetuate a regressive adjudication process. Disregarding law and fundamental rights, jirga justice approves heinous ‘punishments’ such as murder in the name of ‘honour’ and swara — when young girls are forcibly married off to settle disputes or as punishment for crimes by male relatives. Recent reports note an escalation in brutal ‘honour’ crimes in Karachi with couples murdered for marrying of their own choice. On Monday, police exhumed two bodies buried in gunny sacks in a graveyard. The couple was allegedly murdered by relatives on jirga orders for ‘dishonouring’ their families. Given the brutality of this case, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ordered the police to arrest all perpetrators. For this, police competency is required as honour crimes evade legal and judicial prosecution. Mr Shah noted that “Karachi is not a tribal area where jirgas are held”. But this is not the first case of honour killing in Karachi, and the 2004 ban on jirgas is openly flouted. Reinforcing punishment for jirga members, often influential persons, under the anti-honour killing law and anti-jirga law is imperative.

The state must strengthen the courts so that women, especially, are not used as bargaining chips, stripped of any agency, and with no right of representation and appeal. The murder of a Pakhtun couple electrocuted in August in Karachi, despite both families not wanting to carry out the jirga-sanctioned murder, is the result of outsourcing justice. The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is the duty of the living to find justice for them. Yesterday, after more than two months, a judicial magistrate in Karachi issued non-bailable warrants for four jirga members implicated in this case. Because jirgas have cloaked misogyny as tradition and legitimised violence as justice for far too long, the state must end this system before more bodies are buried in unmarked graves.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2017

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