By Malik Siraj Akbar
Balochistan does not have a vibrant middle class nor does it have an active civil society. The media are too restricted and operate unprofessionally with the intention not to offend the government and the tribal chiefs. Perhaps it is this reason that Balochistan is absolutely quite even after the barbaric killing of four women in different incidents in a period of barely one week. Women have been killed brutally by their own close family members in Balochistan’s districts located on the Sindh border on suspicion of having illicit relations with other men. The wired justification given for these reprehensible murders is the “family honor” that is presumably compromised by the “immoral girls”.
In a fresh incident of on December 31st, a man, Nazar Muhammad, a resident of Gott Essa Khan Umrani in Dera Murad Jamali of Naseerabad district, gunned down his wife, Sodhi Bibi, after he suspected her of having “illegitimate relations” with his cousin Muhammad Hayat. He shot both of them down. Another woman was killed in the same district near Rabbi Canal area due to some domestic differences.
On January 1, 2010, A resident of Gott Boral in Dera Allah Yar killed his wife on similar charges of having secrete relations with some men. There was also a confirmed report about a man who killed his wife in Naseerabad last three days ago in an absolutely similar case.
The society in Balochistan has remained a silent viewer of such cases. Talking about the murder of women on the name of honor is still widely considered taboo while those who speak a word of sympathy for the victims of such killings are by and large branded as “shameless” people who oppose the “deserving death punishment” for a girl who brings shame to the name of her resepctful family.
Balochistan came under media trial last year when the issue of five women being allegedly buried alive by influential Umrani tribal elders was raised by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and several media outlets in the country. Instead of punishing the masterminds of the inhuman killings, the attention of the society was cleverly diverted by apply different tactics. For example, the issue was very clearly put under the carpet after it was said that only three, not five, girls had been killed. The others added that they were not “buried alive” but “only killed”. Thus, the controversy revolved around “five versus three” and “burying alive versus killing with sharp tools”
In the meanwhile, everyone was stunned when Senator Israrullah Zehri, the central president of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami) defended the killing of five or three girls on the floor of the Senate of Pakistan by saying that this (killing of women on the name of honor) was a Baloch tradition. While this statement sparked a wave of criticism from bodies striving for the rights of women, a former chief minister of Balochistan and the Deputy Chairman of Senate, Mir Jan Mohammad Jamli, also supported Senator Israr Zehri’s stance. He expressed anger over the fact that “outsiders” were “interfering” in “our deep-rooted cultural practices”.
Like wise, when Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi was asked about the practice of killing of women on the name of honor, he said in an interview with Samaa TV that this practice indeed existed in Balochistan. He refused to condemn it even though the interviewer asked him three times if he condemned such practices.
The men of patriarchal Baloch society still defend such cases under various pretexts.
As a matter of fact, the issue of target killing women can not be described as something related to Baloch traditions because women are not killed in any other district of Balochistan under such excuses. Barring Naseerabad, Jaffarabad and Jhal Magsi districts, no other district in Balochistan exercises such embarrassing practices. Many people in the area say killing women on the name of honor has become a “profitable business” in these three districts. For example “A” accuses “B” (both males) of having illicit relations with his wife, say “C”. In order to assure the community of his truthfulness, he kills his wife i.e. “C” but spares “B”, with whom his wife has alleged relations. Thus, “A” demands a hefty amount of money and agricultural lands from “B” as a settlement of the dispute. So this could rightly be billed as killing for gaining economic benefits not to restore one’s honor. There are definitely other reasons as well for this inhuman practice.
Statistics available confirm that more women are killed than men on the name of honor. According to one report by Abid Aziz Baloch, a journalist of the Urdu newspaper, Daily Jang, Quetta, 47 people were killed in cases of honor killing in Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Derea Bugti and Jhal Magsi. Among the victims, 26 were women and 21 were men.
Daily Times, while quoting sources of the Aurat Foundation (AF), said that around 600 cases of violence against women were reported in 2008 in Balochistan, which included the murder of 89 women in the first nine months of the year.
“At least 115 women were murdered in cases of honor killing. The reported cases included 255 incidents of women being subjected to domestic violence,” said the Daily Times report.
It added that the people were unwilling to discuss the violence as a majority of Balochistan people justified such acts in the name of tradition. “In some other cases, violence against women in rural areas remains unreported in media because of inaccessibility of the area as well as the dominance of men in society, who believe the publication of reports of violence against women amounts to the disrepute of their respective tribes,” it observed.
Statistics about violence against women in Balochistan are shocking. There is a need for changing people’s attitudes towards women in the parts of the province where girls are killed on the name of so-called family honor. Since God has given every individual the right to live a life, no one has the right to finish the other person’s life under any pretext. The recent murders of women in Balochistan should come as an indictment to the non-governmental organizations that spend handsome amounts arranging seminars and workshops in posh venues but fail to raise their voice in response to such tragic incidents.
On its part, the government should also take strict notice of the recent killings of women in Balochistan by some greedy men who justify their acts under the name of “family honor”. These are acts of dishonored killings which should stop at once. Men responsible for killing women should be granted capital punishment so that every woman feels secure under the law.