LAHORE - The Punjab police have failed to arrest prime suspects in the killing of a pregnant woman who was batoned to death by her family near the Lahore High Court (LHC).
While taking typical action, police investigators have managed to detain five relatives of the deceased to force the main accused to surrender themselves to the police.
Days after 25-year-old Farzana’s death, police officers are exonerated in the inquiry report over failure to stop the killing. Instead of ensuring prompt action to help victims get justice, police have started character assassination of the deceased saying that she had remarried illegally.
To some extent, the initial investigation report gives some justification for the murder, stating that Farzana was already married to her cousin, who was among the attackers.
It says the attack took place some 300 yards from the entrance to the high court, where no police were on duty. The police report, also sent to the Punjab chief minister, further revealed that Iqbal had killed his first wife in 2009 and was later released after his son forgave him for blood money.
Under Pakistan's Penal Code, honour killings are treated as murder. However, the law states that the family of the victim is allowed to compromise with the killer (who is usually a relative). Legal experts and social scientists are calling for this law to be changed. Crime experts suggest the state should become the complainant in cases to discourage practice and to bring culprits to justice.
According to a United Nations study, there are more than 5,000 “honour killings” worldwide each year. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported last year that 869 women were murdered for ‘honour’ in the country. But the real figure could be much higher, with many such killings believed to be disguised as accidents, or not reported at all.
In 2011, human rights groups reported 720 honour killings in Pakistan (605 women and 115 men). Some discrepancy exists between reports. For instance Pakistan's Human Rights Commission reported that in 2010 there were 791 honor killings in the country, while Amnesty International cited 960 incidents of women alone who were slain in honour killings that year.
Over 4,000 cases were reported in Pakistan between 1998 and 2004. Of the victims, almost 2,700 were women and just over 1,300 were men; and 3,451 cases came before the courts. The highest rates were in Punjab, followed by the Sindh province.
In the populous Punjab, the killings are more often based on individual decisions and carried out in private. In most cases, husbands, fathers or brothers of the women concerned perpetrate the murders. The victims range from pre-pubescent girls to grandmothers. They are usually killed on the mere allegation of having engaged in 'illicit' sexual relationships.
Recently, the police ‘action’ against a nine-month old baby boy exposed flaws in our criminal justice system. The incident of rape of a five-year-old girl last year in Lahore had also brought international condemnation. The police are still unable to unearth the rapists.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the killing and demanded to know why police stood by while a pregnant woman was beaten to death by her family that too near the high court. The UK, USA governments also condemned the “heinous” killing and called for her murderers to be brought to justice.
The federal and provincial governments must take urgent and strong measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so-called ‘honour killings’ and other forms of violence against women. The flaws in the criminal justice system should also be removed to ensure speedy justice to stop violence against women in Pakistan.