Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission is an organization swimming against a tide of cultural biases dating to centuries in the past.
Sunni Muslims make up the vast majority of the population, and in rural areas, honor killings are not uncommon. Women and men adhere to the custom.
The latest reported honor killing happened on Tuesday. That it happened near the Lahore High Court seems almost as outrageous as the savage manner of the woman’s death. Lahore is Pakistan’s second largest city, and residents take pride in the architectural beauty of colonial era buildings.
As soon as news broke of the brutal death of 25 year old Farzana Parveen, the HRCP issued a statement expressing outrage and describing the manner of the pregnant woman’s murder [underscore added]:
“HRCP is appalled by the manner of Farzana Parveen’s death just a few yards from the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. Her only crime was to marry of her own free will, a right that the law recognises for all adult citizens but one where the state has failed to prevent abuse and violence.
Parveen was killed by around two dozen relatives, including her father and brothers, who attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks. Neither the crowd of onlookers nor policemen present near the place and in the high court intervened.
The woman had come to the court to record her statement in a case lodged after she had married without her family’s approval. The family had reportedly threatened Parveen and her husband on the last hearing on May 12.”
Parveen was pregnant when she was killed in the city where the University of the Punjab is located. The university was established in 1882; it is the oldest seat of higher learning in the nation. Two Nobel laureates hail from UP.
The HRCP issued a report in 2013 about human rights in a country dominated by the Punjabi ethnic group. Ethnic clashes are nothing new in this area; they date to ancient times, even before there was a country named Pakistan, even before colonial times.
The HRCP was already reeling from the murder of Rashid Rehman, a rights activist and attorney who had worked with the commission for more than 20 years. Warnings were directed towards Rehman in a government facility, a prison. HRC explained what happened:
“It must be recalled that on 10 April, through a statement, the Commission had brought it to the attention of the authorities that Rashid was being openly threatened by prosecution lawyers in the Multan District Prison where he was representing a blasphemy accused. The hearing was being held in the prison due to security concerns. The judge, it was reported, did not take any notice of threats issued to Rashid in his presence. Three persons had addressed defence lawyer Rashid Rehman in the judge’s presence and said: ‘You will not come to court next time because you will not exist any more.’”
Rehman was murdered in his office in Multan (Punjab Province) on May 7.
What “blasphemy” did Rehman’s client allegedly commit? According to the Voice of America, “[H]ardline students accused him of making defamatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed last year.”
At least 869 women were “killed in the name of honour” in Pakistan in 2013, according to the HRC. Doubtless there were others, but they are often not even reported. At least 56 women were killed simply because they gave birth to a girl in a society where the birth of a male is preferred.
Honor killings happen even in the United States. Among some classes of Muslims, such killings are viewed as a means of protecting a family from shame. Although in the U.S., progressives routinely promote the idea of women’s rights, that political sect rarely speaks of domestic honor killings, and the sect was instrumental in prohibiting women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali from receiving an honorary degree from Brandeis University in April.
What political “crime” did Ali commit? She routinely criticizes Islam for the treatment of women. Ali is a lonely voice among women activists in the U.S. when it comes to honor killings, and she has called for a means of identifying such killings.
Progressives in the U.S. deny that what Ali calls “honor violence” is a concern. Even groups like CAIR who present themselves as advocates for Muslims consistently focus more on criticizing Americans rather than their own cultural negatives.
When there are almost 1,000 killings in a country the size of Pakistan, and those killings are based on the premise of respect—the same artificial premise of respect that leads to killings in slums and inner city neighborhoods in the U.S.—it is obvious the issue isn’t just related to the fringe of a faith as practiced in some countries.
Currently Americans are talking about women’s rights because of the murders in California, where a young man born to privilege decided to blame women for his own failures. This man killed at least two young women after stabbing his male roommates, according to the latest media accounts. He injured others by using his car as a weapon.
Before much was even known, media and anti-gun activists had taken to the stump—even the father of one victim did this.
When an honor killing occurs in the U.S., or 1,000 occur in a country that has been an ally, almost nothing is said by legacy media. No one speaks of these killings in a rational manner. U.S. debate appears gerrymandered by politics rather than a proper discussion of good vs. evil. Even if interpretation of a faith permits a custom, isn’t the act of murder evil?
Even if a young man has seen therapists for whatever haunts his mind, isn’t the murder of innocents evil? Does it matter whether the victims are murdered with a knife, a car, or a gun? Shouldn’t the debate center around the why and the how if real solutions are to be found?
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission must be staffed by some of the bravest people in that country. People have died to defend human rights there, and it must be noted that crimes are frequently committed with blunt objects or knives.
More than 800 women committed suicide in Pakistan last year.
Ed. Note: British spellings are used for some words in statements from the HRCP.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/May 28, 2014)
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