NEWS that the parents of Qandeel Baloch filed an affidavit in a Multan trial court forgiving their sons, co-accused in her murder, and requesting that the case against them be dismissed did not surprise many observers. Yet it still comes as a relief that the court rejected the request.
It is precisely due to the nature of ‘honour’ crimes — typically perpetrated by the victims’ own family members — and their interactions with punishment waivers and compoundability provisions that Pakistan’s laws were amended to seek to prevent a crime against the state being reduced to a ‘family matter’.
In fact, it was the social media celebrity’s high-profile murder that provided the momentum for the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act to finally be passed in October 2016, a few months after her death.
Three years on, the case must be brought to its logical conclusion.
Unlike most cases of ‘honour’ killings, many of which go unreported, the circumstances surrounding Qandeel’s death were well documented and the intent behind her murder clear.
Justice must be done, and be seen to be done. But the issue goes far beyond this one case.
At stake is the question of whether a woman’s life is conditional on her conforming to the moral strictures or conventional sensibilities of others, or inviolable as articulated under Article 9 of the Constitution.
Pakistan needs justice for Qandeel, and for the many more women whose lives are forever altered or cut short by crimes covered up by the unbearably toxic burden of chadar aur chardiwari.
Although the introduction of progressive laws in recent years is a positive step, they are still far from perfect, not to mention the fact that enacting legislation while ignoring issues within the mechanisms through which they are to be implemented betrays a lack of seriousness.
Unalloyed commitment to upholding women’s fundamental rights must permeate the entire edifice of the criminal justice system — and at every stage, from reporting to investigation to court procedure.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019