Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Pakistan to pass law against honour killings

Narada Desk | July 20, 2016 8:47 pm Print
The decision was announced by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

In the wake of the high-profile murder of outspoken social media star Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan parliament might pass long-delayed bill against “honour killings”. The decision was announced by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Maryam, who is increasingly said to be influencing the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after her father’s illness, said the Bill will go before a before a parliamentary panel as early as Thursday, Reuters said in a report.

The government is under pressure to pass the law against honour killings.

Murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of the honour of their family is increasing in Pakistan.

If the new law is passed it would remove a loophole that allows other family members to pardon a killer.

The 25 year-old Pakistani social media star Qadeel Baloch Qandeel was strangled Friday at her family home in Multan by her brother Waseem Baloch.

Waseem, later arrested by the police, in a press conference said he’s proud that he killed his sister, claiming he did it because “girls are born to stay home.”

Maryam said the government wanted to pass the law unanimously and had been negotiating with religious parties in parliament.

“We have finalised the draft law in the light of negotiations,” Maryam was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“The final draft will be presented to a committee of joint session of parliament on 21 July for consideration and approval.”

Maryam said once the parliamentary committee approved the bill, it would be presented for a vote in a “couple of weeks” before a joint session of parliament.

A spokesman for Jamaat-i-Islami, one of the two major religious parties in parliament, said his party would not oppose the bill.

In Pakistan, religious parties have traditionally opposed legislation empowering women.

Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan by family members over perceived damage to “honour” that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men or any other infraction against conservative values that govern women’s modesty.

In 2014, the Upper House of parliament had passed the bill but it lapsed after the government failed to put it up for a vote in the lower house because it was preoccupied with legislation aimed at tackling security problems and economic reforms.

All major parties were now backing the bill and it was likely to be passed in a few weeks by a joint session of parliament, reported Reuters.

In a rare move, this week the government became a complainant in the police case against Qandeel’s brother accused of her murder, designating it a crime against the state and thereby blocking her family from forgiving their son.

Although government officials appeared confident of backing for the Bill in parliament, it could still face resistance.

The influential Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, warned that it would not support any law that removed the forgiveness loophole, even though the Council considers honour killings a crime.

“Islamic law and the Koran say that the right to forgive or punish lies first and foremost with the victim’s family,” said council spokesman Inam Ullah.

“So if this bill is trying to completely take away that right from the family, then of course that is against Islamic teachings. The state cannot completely take away that right from the family.”

The religious parties and the Council hold significant influence over public opinion and the government fears a backlash if any law passes without their approval.

Qandeel had long divided opinion in the deeply conservative Muslim society with her social media interventions.