Sir: It is a sad day for human rights. The tragic and heart-breaking murder of a young, newlywed girl at the behest of her own family outside the Lahore High Court (LHC) shows the deplorable state our judiciary, legislature and cultural emotions are set in. Where was the police when she was pounded with bricks? She was well within the judicial compounds of a metropolis! However, the state’s failure to protect her does not end here. Honour killings as acts of murder are not considered a crime against the state but an individual within familial settings. Since such killing has deeply entrenched notions of morality and honour, the police and judiciary are reluctant to intervene, impliedly allowing the male dominated jirgas (tribal courts) in semi-autonomous tribal areas to take charge. Laws are meant to protect the weak but the controversial Hudood Ordinance constricts women’s abilities to exercise independent decision-making.
The 1990 Qisas and Diyat Ordinance lets the concerned parties decide the victim’s fate. Should the perpetrator be reported, pardoned or required to pay diyat (blood money) thus keeping state scrutiny at bay? The alarming appeal and vehemence of this ancient beast leaves little to report, leaving a rather dismal picture of the actual number of deaths. If this is the attitude of society towards exercising free choice, Ferzana Iqbal’s father was not wrong to admit that he had done the right thing. The recent development to make honour killings part of the Anti Terrorism Act, liable to seven years imprisonment, is also being met with scepticism. The government should out rightly ban such foul practices without the ability of perpetrators to pay diyat and buy their freedom.