Pakistan

Barbaric murders

Sep 15, 2017
Even in the annals of ‘honour’ killing, these will be counted as particularly barbaric murders. Two teenagers, 15-year-old Bakht Taj and 17-year-old Ghani Rehman, were electrocuted to death by their families for having eloped from their homes in Karachi’s Ibrahim Hyderi area. However, before they could approach someone to get married, they were tracked down by their families, who belong to a sub-clan of the Mohmand tribe, and brought back. A jirga of tribal elders ordered that the children be put to death for having flouted the traditional code of honour. Allegedly, the father and uncle of the girl and the boy held them down and repeatedly gave them electric shocks until they died. After an informant told police about the crime, bodies of the deceased were exhumed on Wednesday; a forensic analysis found that they bore signs of electrocution and torture.
 
The crime of honour killing — whatever the means of murder — has a particular horror attached to it: the savagery is twice compounded for being committed by one’s own family. It can seem even more shocking when such an act takes place not in some lawless tribal region or rural backwater, but in a bustling, comparatively modern metropolis. However, that should not be cause for surprise. People, especially migrants, who belong to an extremely conservative social milieu are more likely to try and preserve their cultural values fiercely than be influenced by their (new) environment. As the present case shows, they retain even the informal instruments of ‘justice’ that exist back home. 
 
The real issue then, is of changing mindsets in which antediluvian notions of honour demand the taking of a life or the handing over young girls as compensation. Nevertheless, there is evidence of an intergenerational conflict taking place in this society with younger people, more exposed to outside influences through the media and the internet, wanting to break free of the straitjacket of tradition imposed on them by their elders. The state must demonstrate that honour killing has no place in society. Although the crime inexcusably remains compoundable, amendments to the law have enhanced the maximum punishment to imprisonment for life, ie 25 years, while the minimum — even in case of a compromise — cannot be less than 10 years behind bars. The murderers in the recent case and the jirga participants should be held accountable. The law of the land must prevail over archaic tribal codes.
 
Dawn News, September 15, 2017

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