07/22/2004, 00.00
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Honour killing and "karo kari" in Pakistan

by Qaiser Felix

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Honour crimes are an archaic practice in Pakistan. Although precise figures are hard to obtain, especially for the more remote rural and tribal areas, Pakistan is thought to hold the world record in honour crimes.

Karo kari is a compound word literally meaning "black male" and "black female," metaphoric terms for adulterer and adulteress. Being so labelled leads more often than not to the murder of both man and woman allegedly guilty of having an illicit affair. This is especially true in the rural areas of the southern province of Sindh. In other parts of the country, women are more likely to be accused of sexual improprieties and murdered in order to wash the sullied family honour.

Official data recently published by the Pakistani Senate show that more than 4,000 people died in the last 6 years as result of karo-kari. Of the victims almost 2,800 were women and just over 1,300 were men. Thus twice as many women as men lose their lives to this most barbaric social custom.

The data show that the highest number of karo kari killings were perpetrated in Punjab province followed by Sindh, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the south-western province of Baluchistan. Some non governmental and media sources suggest that prior to 1998 Sindh topped the list.

Of the 2,774 murdered women, 1,578 were killed in Punjab, 751 in Sindh, 260 in NWFP and 185 in Baluchistan. Of the 1,327 murdered men, 675 were killed in Punjab, 348 in Sindh, 188 in NWFP and 116 in Baluchistan.

Although 4101 people were victims of honour killings only 3,451 cases were brought before the courts: 1.834 in Punjab, 980 in Sindh, 361 in NWFP and 276 in Baluchistan.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat and Law Minister Raza Hayat Hiraj speaking before the Senate said the government would soon table a bill banning honour crimes and karo kari. Parliament began debating on Tuesday, July 20, an amendment to the Penal Code introduced by the Pakistan People's Party-Parliamentarians (PPPP) that would impose long sentences to anyone guilty of honour crimes and karo kari. The PPPP's action was also intended to block attempts by other parties to leave the matter outside the purview of the Law.

The PPPP's Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, speaking in favour of the amendment, said the Pakistan Penal Code should be changed so as to rid the law books of honour crimes and karo kari. He insisted that honour killings are murders and guilty parties should be punished with a life sentence. He urged legislators belonging to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a six- party Islamic alliance, as well as religious groups to support the amendment. He insisted that it was high time that Shariah law come under closer scrutiny to stop it from being abused.

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