Couple fears death for getting married
ISLAMABAD: Doctors Amnat and Ghulam Mustafa are on the run, in fear of their lives, for falling in love and getting married.
Hundreds of women fall victim to so-called “honour killing” by male relatives every year in Pakistan for marrying without their families’ consent, thereby being deemed to have brought disgrace on their family. Amnat fears she would meet that same fate if she returned to her home in Sindh. “My brothers have threatened to kill me and my husband,” 44-year-old Amnat said in a recent interview in Islamabad.
“There is no guarantee for my life if I go home,” the visibly shaken woman said as her husband, Ghulam Mustafa, looked on. “The main condition of my brothers is that I should get a divorce from my husband if I want to go home but I will never do that.” The couple’s predicament highlights a major dilemma faced by the country in reconciling centuries-old tribal traditions with modern-day values as President Pervez Musharraf tries to project the country as a moderate, progressive Muslim nation.
More than 4,000 people, the majority of them women, have been killed in the name of honour across Pakistan since 1998, according to government officials. Amnat and Mustafa have been on the run since they married in August 2002 and have recently come to Islamabad to seek government help. “We have come here to ask the government to do something for us because we are now physically, mentally and financially exhausted,” the bespectacled Mustafa said.
The doctors’ marriage enraged Amnat’s relatives in their conservative hometown of Moro where almost every marriage is arranged.
Mustafa said his wife’s family had been harassing his family ever since. They kidnapped and tortured two of his women relatives for more than two weeks and attacked and wounded his nephew to avenge the marriage, he said.
“At least 35 of my relatives have left Moro in fear of their lives,” he said.
No change in trend: President Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led war on terror, has in recent months become more forceful in urging the government to take stringent steps to curb crimes against women. In May, he called for the drafting of specific laws against honour killings, saying that although they were already illegal, specific laws would strengthen efforts to end the “intolerable practice”. He also called for a review of controversial Islamic laws which rights activists say are discriminatory against women.
But human rights groups say crime against women goes on despite the president’s calls.
“There is no change in the trend,” said Kamila Hayat, a spokeswoman for the private Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The government has been saying for long that it is doing something. But nothing actually has happened on the ground,” she said.
Rights activists say few of those responsible for honour killings are brought to justice, with police often reluctant to intervene in a “family matter”. Those who are arrested are often freed after families reach settlements, usually brokered by tribal elders. In Amnat’s home province of Sindh, where such murders are known as Karo Kari (black man, black woman), rights groups say 398 people, including 243 women, were victims of honour killings in 2002. Mustafa said he did not want the government to provide protection just to them. “We want them to lay hands on influential people and feudals who incite such crimes. There are many Amnats who are facing similar tragedies,” he said. reuters