Protests over “honor killings” in Pakistan

Pakistan opened an investigation Sept. 1 into the killings of five women in Baluchistan who tried to choose their own husbands, after a federal lawmaker from the province defended their deaths, asserting that “only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.” Sen. Israr Ullah Zehri told the parliament chamber Aug. 30, “These are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.”

The women were kidnapped July 13 by men from their village, Baba Kot, Jafferabad district, and taken to a deserted area in a vehicle bearing provincial government plates, according to the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The young women were beaten and shot before being buried alive. The two older women tried to intervene and were also interred alive. One of the men involved was said to be a brother of Baluchistan’s housing minister, a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The case ignited widespread protests after an opposition senator, Yasmeen Shah, accused the government of trying to cover up the killings. She was interrupted by Sen. Zehri, who defended honor killings as “our norms” and said they should “not be highlighted negatively.”

After public protests spearheaded by the Women Action Forum (WAF), the government moved to support a Senate resolution condemning the killings. Critics said the PPP was trying to hish up the episode to secure Baluchistan’s support for the leader of the party, Asif Ali Zardari, in the pending electoral college vote for president. (NYT, Sept. 3; The News, Pakistan, Sept. 2; AP, Sept. 1)

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