Pakistan: Young couple faces murder in the name of "honour"
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that a young couple has been threatened with death because they married without the permission of their parents. (AHRC)
Powerful persons of the tribe in question, with the support of police authorities have killed a prominent journalist and injured the younger brother of the bride groom who were hiding the couple. The police have not arrested any of the killers, even after three months. The alleged murderers, who were mentioned in the First Information Report (FIR), are roaming around freely. The couple is hiding in different places but is in serious danger as the tribal people are following them.
Mr. Mohammad Ibrahim, 26 years, and Ms. Zainab, 22 years, were legally married in Balochistan province on April 9, 2004, after returning from Jordan where they were born. The father of Ms. Zainab, Mr. Imdad Hussain Sealrho, was against the marriage of his daughter as he wanted to marry her to an old man for the settlement of some old dispute. However, Ms. Zainab was in love with Mr. Ibrahim and wanted to marry him. Mr. Imdad Hussain Sealrho is also the head of the Sealrho tribe. This tribe has a strong hold in Shahdad Kot, Sindh province and Hub Chowki in Balochistan province. The couple ran away from Jordan to Pakistan and were legally married in a court at Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province. After discovering that his daughter had married someone of her own choice, Mr. Imdad Hussain Sealrho, the father of Ms. Zainab, lodged a police case and filed a petition against Mr. Ibrahim that he had abducted his daughter and forced her to marry him. The Balochistan High Court on April 17, 2004, on the first hearing, dismissed the case as the couple was present there and they had produced copies of the court marriage. The tribal people were present and they threatened to take revenge upon Mr. Ibrahim. However, the couple managed to escape from there. After the court's decision, the elders of the Sealrho tribe decided in a Jirga, an illegal private court, to declare the girl as Kari and the boy as Karo. Kari and Karo is an old tribal tradition meaning that they could be subject to honour killing.
The couple, after knowing that they had been declared as Karo and Kari, left the country to settle in Malaysia, but having financial problems they came back again in 2006 to Pakistan. The couple again found it difficult to stay in Pakistan as the tribal armed persons were tracking them down. Ibrahim and Zainab once again tried to settle in Malaysia but again failed and had to return. As the news of their return to Pakistan was known to the family of Ms. Zainab, the tribe started to search any place where the couple might take shelter. The father of the girl found that the couple was staying at Hub Chowki, district Lasbella, Balochistan province, at the residence of Ibrahim's brother, Mr. Mohammad Ishaq, and a local journalist, Mr. Khadim Hussain Shaikh, staff reporter of Channel 5 television and the daily Khabrain, who were providing protection for the couple. On April 14, 2008, when journalist Khadim Hussain and Mohammad Alam were travelling in a car, assailants stopped the car and opened fire on the occupants. Mr. Khadim Hussain was shot dead on the spot but Mr. Mohammad Alam survived. The police station of Hub Chowki tried to avoid entering the First Information Report (FIR) but because it was the murder of a journalist the police filed a case of attack by unknown persons. When Mr. Mohammad Alam, brother of Ibrahim, regained consciousness, he named the 11 persons who were involved in the bloody attack. However the police have not yet arrested any of the accused persons who are present in the Hub area.
The couple has left the area and are taking shelter in different cities of the country. Whenever their presence is discovered by the tribal elders they attack the house or hotels where they take refuge. The provincial governments of Sindh and Balochistan are not providing protection for them and allow their lives to be put at the mercy of the tribal custom of murdering in the name of honour killings.
The custom of Karo Kari is an old traditional way of killing young women and men in the tribal and feudal based areas of Balochistan and Sindh provinces and in some border areas of Punjab province. It is reported that about 40 to 60 women are killed every year because of Kari. Generally, in land distribution disputes, the women of the tribal areas are made victims of Karo Kari. This is a kind of honour killing in which a woman is labeled as if she was having an illicit relationship with a man. Through the tribal court, the Jirga, women are murdered by relatives mainly, brother, father or husband. No case is instituted against the killer and police, under the influence of tribal leaders, usually do not file the case as murder. On the other hand, a man who is accused of having an illicit relationship with a woman, is generally fined to hand over the young girl from his family to the attacker or has to be killed for non- compliance of the order of the tribal court.
The different courts in Pakistan, including the Supreme Court and the Sindh High Court, have declared the Jirga courts as illegal and unconstitutional. Nonetheless, it is still a common practice in the feudal and tribal based areas. The honour killing of women is the favourite subject of the Jirgas who see punishing women as the best way to preserve Islamic society.
For suggested actions and a sample letter, please see the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Website:
30 June 2008