Anti-jirga law is imperative

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It is welcome to note that Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has taken strong notice of the honour killing incident in Nawab Colony, Karachi. Given the brutality of this case, Murad Ali Shah ordered the police to arrest all perpetrators. For this, police competency is required as honour crimes evade legal and judicial prosecution. Mr Shah has rightly noted that “Karachi is not a tribal area where jirgas are held”. But this is not the first case of honour killing in Karachi, and the 2004 ban on jirgas is openly flouted. As a matter of fact, reinforcing punishment for jirga members, often influential persons, under the anti-honour killing law and anti-jirga law is imperative. Just imagine, the couple was killed in the name of so-called ‘honour’ on the orders of a jirga in the metropolis’ Mominabad area last week. The unfortunate couple, 24-year-old Hadi and the woman, had married out of choice which offended their family members who wanted to kill them for bringing disgrace to their honour. Earlier in September, a teenage couple accused of violating the Pashtun ‘code of honour’ was also killed reportedly by being given electric shocks. The murders were executed by family members on the orders of a jirga of elders of the Mohmand tribe. The area where this atrocity played out was Ali Brohi Goth, a locality in the suburbs of Karachi that falls with the jurisdiction of the Ibrahim Hyderi police. As per information garnered from locals and police sources, the wheels of tribal ‘justice’ were set in motion on August 14, the day the country celebrated 70 years of its existence. The girl, 15-year-old Bakht Taj, daughter of Hikmat Khan, had allegedly attempted to elope with 17-year-old Rehman, son of Muhammad Afzal. Both families belong to the Safi sub-clan of the Mohmand tribe and reside in Ali Brohi Goth. Less than a month ago, the much-debated word ‘honour’ resurfaced in the country’s mainstream media after a teenage girl was paraded naked on the streets in Dera Ismail Khan in the name of honour. As the issue is still in vogue with investigations underway, another case of honour this time involving the murder of a couple in Karachi has been reported. Honour killing cases in Pakistan are rampant irrespective of the Anti-Honour Killing Bill being passed. However, many of them are often reported from rural areas and citizens are often quick to snub the issue as something that is only prevalent in the countryside. Resultantly, policies are only formulated keeping in mind the orthodox mindset of these conservative areas. But with fresh waves of cases being reported from areas that make up the urban metropolitan cities, it is evident that there is much more in place than a rural conservative mindset. First and foremost, the prevalence of a Jirga system is in question. Why has the state let a parallel system of justice that is solely based on a misogynistic mindset to prevail? In fact, there is no justification for the jirga existence. In the presence of such a parallel justice system, the innocent victims cannot get justice. With the passage of time, the jirga justice has now spread to mega cities like Karachi and Lahore. These jigras are so strong that they implement their decisions forcibly. A teenage couple who tried to elope was electrocuted to death on the orders of a Jirga in August, even when the families of the victims had pleaded for mercy. It is commendable that the Sindh chief minister has ordered the police to arrest all perpetrators, including the members of the Jirga, it is important that any such existing systems must be rendered ineffective immediately, lest we continue to lose more innocent lives. The state should have no tolerance for ‘honour’ crimes, it must not permit a parallel and illegal judicial system to perpetuate a regressive adjudication process. Disregarding law and fundamental rights, jirga justice approves heinous ‘punishments’ such as murder in the name of ‘honour’ and swara – when young girls are forcibly married off to settle disputes or as punishment for crimes by male relatives. Recent reports note an escalation in brutal ‘honour’ crimes in country with couples murdered for marrying of their own choice. The state must strengthen the courts so that women, especially, are not used as bargaining chips, stripped of any agency, and with no right of representation and appeal. The murder of a Pakhtun couple electrocuted in August in Karachi, despite both families not wanting to carry out the jirga-sanctioned murder, is the result of outsourcing justice. The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is the duty of the living to find justice for them. Because jirgas have cloaked misogyny as tradition and legitimised violence as justice for far too long, the state must end this system before more bodies are buried in unmarked graves.

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