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A Pakistani Women’s Battle to Stay Alive

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Download Haleema Bhutto has been living on the pavement in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad for the last ten months.

She has been labeled as a dishonorable woman and says if she returns to her home in Ghotki district of Sindh, she will be killed.

She has been telling her story to Yasser Ali.

 

“I was married to my cousin Shakeel when I was just 12-year old. I was forced to marry him because my father died. My husband asked me to transfer my property to him. When I refused he accused me of having dishonest relations with my brother-in-law. The Jirga, a court of 15 tribal elders declared me Kari.”

Kari literally means ‘black female’ and once a couple are labeled as ‘black or ‘Karo-kari’ male family members have the right to kill them to restore the family honor.

In most cases the victim is female and the killer’s men.

When the tribal elders made their verdict, Haleema Bhutto and her family fled to the capital Islamabad some 1600 kilometres away.

Abdul Ghaffar is the man accused with Haleema.

“We arrived in Islamabad with the hope that we would get speedy justice in few days. But several month have been passed, nobody has taken notice of our protest. If we knew it we would never come to the capital. My 2-years old child is also suffering with us on road. I am really worried about his growth without shelter.”

Haleema’s sister Basheeran believes the honor killing verdict is about land.

“I am sure there was no illicit relation between them. It was totally false allegation on them just to grab property of our family. Now Haleema’s husband occupied our lands. They cut our wheat and trees. It is third crop he is harvesting. We demands from government to either get back our property or provide us alternate living resources elsewhere.”

Calls were made to the head of the police anti-Karo Kari Cell and the National commission on the status of women but all refused to comment on the fate of the couple.

According to Human Rights groups, every year hundreds of women and men are murdered in so-called honour killings.

In the Sindh province over 280 cases of Karo-Kari were reported in first six months of last year.

Rabia Hadi is the member of Aurat Foundation which works for the women rights.

“Most of the times women are charged under these cases when they refused force marriage or in order to capture their property. Old women are being accused of Karo with teenage boys. Though government has established Karo Kari Protection Cells but they are ineffective because of influence of feudal and tribal elders. Government should strengthen police in these areas so that such practices can be prevented.”

Police officer Liaqat Ali says most of the killers go unpunished.

“The Police do arrest the honor killers under murder charges. The police send them to court and obviously the court takes decision on the basis of proofs and witnesses. Traditionally, families of the victim and killer justified the killing in the name of owner and give statements in favor of accused. So in this way the killer walks free”.

Rights activist Rabia Hadi says existing nation laws against honor killing are not enough.

“Though a law was passed against honor killing in 2006. But there is need of further necessary amendments because under the existing laws killers can easily escape punishment. Such crimes should be declared against the state instead of individuals. So that no family member couldn’t justify these killings and the accused must be held accountable. It is the responsibility of government to ensure security of every individual.”

Back outside the press gallery.

Zohran Mahi the mother of Haleema Bhutto says they are losing patience.

“If we don’t get justice, I will set myself on fire. We can’t sleep easily and can’t get food here. Half of my family is living in Sindh and the rest of my children are suffering in Islamabad for the sake of justice. This is too much. For God sake somebody help us. We are fed up now.”

Haleema says she will never be able to go home.

“If we go back to home they will kills all of us. I have seen many girls and boys murdered under Karo-Kari charges. Once local elders label anybody Karo-Kari, he or she must be killed. I won’t go back.”

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 17 January 2011 12:08 )  

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