In 2004 the parliament took on an exercise to curb “Honour killings” through a Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill.
The statement and objects quoted here, was the first ever official acceptance of such barbarism patent in the cultural bathos: “issue of Honour-killing and other Honour crimes committed in the name of ‘Karo Kari, Siyah-Kari and similar other customs has always been a matter of concern of human rights organizations and the public which has assumed more significance in the recent years”.
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2004 which proposed amendments of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 enhanced punishment for the offence of murders carried out in the name of Honour. Interestingly, the term ‘Honour killing‘ which was replaced with ‘Honour crime‘, was presumably word play to tone down the offences, and their gravity to make the “law” mild and acceptable to the shareholders of the society.
Under the amended Section 299, Act XLV of 1860 PPC, ‘Honour crime’ meant an offence committed in the name of ‘Ghairat’ or Honour or for “vindication of Ghairat or Honour and includes Honour killing and the offence committed on the pretext of ‘Karo Kari’, ‘Siyah Kari’ or similar other customs”. In clause ‘m’ it sought to add at the end the words ‘other than the person who has murdered the victim’.
Under the amended section 302, Act XLV of 1860, Honour crimes carried a maximum imprisonment of 25 years and not less than 10 years for the offence. The amended Sections 310 and 331 of the PPC prohibited giving a girl in marriage as ‘badla-i-sullah‘ and any offence under these sections carried maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment and a minimum of not less than seven years of imprisonment.
Amendment to section 324 sought to include the hurting of a victim as an Honour crime. Similarly ‘Ta’zir’ was not to be less than one-third of the maximum imprisonment provided for the hurt caused and shall not be less than half of such imprisonment term if the hurt caused relates to Honour crime.
An amendment to section 56B envisaged that no police officer below the rank of Superintendent of Police shall investigate the case of a woman accused of the offence of adultery.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2004 was passed purportedly against ‘Honour killings’, however, it shied away from addressing the critical issue at stake; that of the officially permitted waiver or compounding of the offence (Qisas and Diyat Ordinance) whereby, the perpetrators were given the advantage of seeking forgiveness from the heir of the victim. Qisas and Diyat law, now part of the Pakistan Penal Code, and covering all offences against the human body, (the original sections having been repealed and substituted). It made such offenses compoundable (open to compromise as a private matter between two parties) by providing remedies legitimized through what is fallaciously dubbed as Hudood Laws. Qisas (retribution) or Diyat (blood-money). The heirs of the victim may forgive the murderer in the name of God without receiving any compensation or Diyat (Section 309), or compromise after receiving Diyat (Section 310).
The Supreme Court of Pakistan through various judgments has time and again reiterated that “Neither the law of the land nor religion permits so-called ‘Honour’ killings and it amounts to intentional murder (‘qatl-i-amd‘)” noting that “such iniquitous and vile” acts violate the fundamental rights as enshrined in Article 9 of the Pakistan Constitution which provides that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty except in accordance with law”. Article 8 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides that “Any law, or any custom or usage having the force of law, in so far as it is inconsistent with the rights conferred by this Chapter (Fundamental Rights), shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void”. The failure to uphold the right to life guaranteed under the Constitution is at the heart of the crisis, not the lack of provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code to combat Honour killings. Measures are needed to amend the Law to ensure that State re-allocates to its self the responsibility for registering, investigating and prosecuting the accused of Honour killings without any scope for waiver or compounding under the Qisas and Diyat law, cosmetic gesture through word play hardly touch the nerve, much less alter the situation of the weak.
Whatever little may have been achieved through that Bill, was nullified ab initio by the well entrenched Qisas and Diyat Law.
Two years hence, on 20th December 2006 a new statute titled “Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006” came into force in Pakistan.
(This is a prelude to the main article. The relevant laws have been placed for facilitation purposes to the readers.)