LAHORE - City witnesses five murders last week. Two young women and three men were executed by their relatives for bringing shame to their families. The alleged killers are police in custody while the victims were buried hurriedly.

By the way, the five killings being dubbed in the local media as honour killings took place last week in the low-income neighborhoods of Lahore involving poor families. Police rarely report such incidents in posh localities involving rich families.

We cannot blame only the economic factor behind such killings but most of the people who kill their relatives for honour or those killed by their families in the recent past belonged to poor background with no schooling or proper education.

During background interviews, police investigators and some murder suspects, arrested by police for killing relatives, said they committed the heinous crime after being condemned by the society.

A Christian man who killed his wife in the name of so-called honour said that he had been left with no other option except the kill his wife. “I killed her because she had developed affairs with other men. I did this to escape condemnations from the society, from the people where I used to live.”

A young woman was burnt to death by her mother at her parents in Lahore’s Factory Area, just a week after she married against the will of her family. Two days later, a security guard killed his daughter, her husband, and brother-in-law at his house and then courted his arrest.

Resident of Kahna, Ashraf, told the police that he committed the triple murder because his 20-year-old daughter had given bad name to the family by contracting love-marriage with a 40-year-old man. Saba Karamat, her husband Karamat Ali, and his 48-year-old brother Ikram Ali were gunned down by Saba’s father. The triple murder took place in Abdullahpur town just two days after a 17-year-old was set ablaze by her mother in the Factory Area police precincts for marrying with a man of her choice.

The merciless killing of Zeenat Bibi sparked nationwide outrage and brought international condemnations.

The next day, a 20-year-old man was found shot dead at the house of his girlfriend in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat area. Police investigators believe the youth was shot and killed by a brother of the girl. Ashfaq’s marriage proposal was rejected by parents of the girl because of caste difference, according to relatives of the injured girl. They said that Ashfaq wanted to tie his knot with Mahwish, the younger sister of Nida. He opened fire on Mahwish who survived narrowly but her sister Nida sustained bullet injuries on her left hand.

The family also claimed that the youth committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. However, the police termed the suicide claims as misleading after initial probe, and said that the youth was killed by a brother of the girl. Actually, he had come to Lahore to see his girlfriend in Kot Lakhpat where her brother killed him and then fled. A murder case was registered with the local police. 

Violence against women is quite common in this male-dominated society. The provincial police reported at least 914 rape cases during the first three months of this year in the Punjab.

In February, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that laws that allow families to murder their daughters in the name of “honour” and avoid punishment will be changed as soon as possible. The PM’s call for perpetrators to be ‘punished very severely’ put him on collision course with religious conservatives. Nawaz Sharif said the perpetrators of so-called honour killings must not be allowed to be forgiven by family members. PM had state d this at a function and in the presence of ministers and diplomats.

The Parliament passed the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 in March 2016. The laws bind the law enforcing agencies to treat the honour killing as heinous crime and the state would act against the killers in case they would be pardoned by the relatives of the victim. According to Human rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 1276 incidents of honour killings were reported in the country from Feb 2014 to Feb 2016.

The law enforcement agencies do not take seriously the cases of honour killings in the most populated Punjab province where more than 6000 murders take place every year. Most often the victims and the killers belonged to the same family. Therefore, the criminals are rarely punished for the crime that carries death penalty. Flawed police investigations are also one of the reasons behind the complicated criminal justice system.

The provincial police department last week approved a new policy to investigate the incidents of honour killing and the cases related to violence against women. Punjab inspector general of police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera approved the new policy. According to a police spokesperson, the recently reported killings of women in Lahore, Muzaffargarh, and Multan districts were also reviewed in detail during the meeting. “It was decided in the meeting that strict action will be taken against the criminals found involved in violence against women. The police will ensure quick action by immediately lodging the FIRs against the criminals. The culprits will also be arrested immediately,” the spokesperson said.

It appears as the laws have failed to check violence against women in this country. Reportdly, legislators and religious scholars were accused of being in denial as incidents of domestic and sexual violence remain high across the country. Activists say that by not having any clauses that criminalise violence against women, the protection of women against violence bill relies on the basic tenets of the Pakistan Penal Code for action against perpetrators. The main focus of the bill is on the establishment of protection centres and shelters for the victims but religious opposition to the bill has brought this process to a halt.