A NEW report by a local NGO has revealed, yet again, how prevalent and ‘institutionally acceptable’ is the mindset that condones the cold-blooded murder of citizens on the pretext of honour. A survey of such cases conducted by Sindh Suhai Sath has revealed that as many as 176 people — 48 men and 128 women — were killed across Sindh by their immediate families last year. Not only that but a drastic increase was also witnessed in such cases in four districts of upper Sindh. According to the report, 27 men and women were murdered on the pretext of honour in Kashmore-Kandhkot, 26 in Jacobabad, 23 in Shikarpur and 17 in Ghotki district.
The fact that such a large number of killings continue unabated, despite the existence of laws and rulings by the apex court, shows how deep the rot goes. It is not confined to Sindh. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 1,000 women are killed on the pretext of honour every year in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the low conviction rate associated with such murders — according to the Sindh police it hovers below 3pc — also underscores the fact that the state machinery is either unable or unwilling to enforce the laws that are in place. That the numbers of such murders are on the rise in upper Sindh indicates that the writ of the state is missing there, emboldening those with narrow-minded worldviews to perpetuate illegal and barbaric practices without fear of punishment. Last year’s attack on a couple in Karachi in broad daylight — they had been returning from a hearing pertaining to their free-will marriage — demonstrates the level of impunity with which these crimes are committed. By continuing with its apathy, the state is only aiding the criminals and normalising such archaic practices. The authorities must do more than ensure maximum punishment for these murderers. They must firmly communicate to society that far from preserving family honour, such barbaric practices only reflect a blindly mediaeval and criminal mind.
Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2022