ISLAMABAD, Sept 18: Women rights groups from across the country here on Thursday demanded the government to launch an independent probe into the alleged burying alive of five women in Balochistan and asked for the resignation of a senator and some public servants who had tried to justify the act by terming it part of local culture and tradition.

Speaking at a press conference, which was preceded by day-long consultations and followed by a protest demonstration here in front of the camp office of Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club, activists of a number of women rights organisations held the state responsible for the reoccurrence of crimes against women in the name of honour and tradition in various parts of the country.

Representatives of civil society organisations and activists from all over Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Sukkur, Naseerabad, Mardan, Swabi and Islamabad held a day-long consultation and expressed their lack of satisfaction over the investigation held to the burying alive of five women by the inspector general of Balochistan.

Speaking at a press conference later, Anees Haroon of Aurat Foundation termed the crime heinous, barbaric, unspeakable and part of the local power politics in Balochistan, which, she said, needed to be condemned in strongest possible words and countered by punishing those responsible.

She said the Senate had already expressed its dissatisfaction over the investigation report prepared by the police under the IG Balochistan as it suffered from various procedural lacunas. She said the civil society commission should prepare an independent fact-finding report, while a senior and renowned lawyer should oversee the investigations being conducted by the police.

Ms Haroon was announcing a joint statement prepared during consultations called together by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), Women Action Forum (WAF), Insani Haqooq Ittehad (IHI) and Violence Against Women Watch Group. A large number of women participants unanimously termed the women killed in the name of honour as ‘Shaheed Auratain’ (Martyred Women), and said 16 days of activism this year would be dedicated to such women killed in honour-related crimes.

The joint statement also called for disqualification of Senator Israrullah Zehri and all those public representatives who had allegedly “defended” honour killings. It demanded legislations against the informal judicial structures like Jirga and Panchayat.

Ms Haroon said the Pakistan Penal Code needed to be further amended so that murder was brought back as a crime against state and should under no circumstances be compounded. Murder of members of vulnerable groups should be taken as an aggravated rather than mitigated circumstance. She said women and human rights groups would also hold four seminars at provincial levels in order to build vocal support against honour killing.

The participants of the consultation later gathered in front of the camp office of the Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club and staged a demonstration demanding the government to take practical measures to curb violence against women.

The participants were holding banners and placards inscribed with slogans against male chauvinism and the animal-like treatment of women at the hands of men in many parts of the country.

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