South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

A Pakistani parliamentary committee unanimously approved Thursday a bill to close a loophole that allows perpetrators of so-called honor killings to escape punishment, paving the way for a debate and vote on the legislation.

The move comes days after Pakistani internet celebrity Qandeel Baloch, real name Fauzia Azeem, was strangled to death, allegedly by her brother Muhammed Waseem, in one of the highest-profile suspected honor killings in Pakistan in years.

Under Islamic provisions in Pakistani law, family members of a murder victim can forgive the killer, a loophole that human rights activists say is frequently exploited. Many victims are killed by their own relatives, and the perpetrators often escape punishment because another member of the family forgives them.

Zahid Hamid, law minister, said the proposed bill will ensure punishment even if the family of the victim forgives the killer. “The law will now require that even in such a case, the court will be bound to award life imprisonment,” said Mr. Hamid, who chairs the committee that approved the bill on Thursday.

Under Pakistani law, a life sentence is 25 years.

Honor killings claimed the lives of over 1,000 women in Pakistan last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent body. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised legislation earlier this year to stop such murders.

Mr. Hamid said the anti-honor killings bill will now be presented in Parliament for a debate and vote in a session expected early August. With a majority in the lower house of Parliament, and support from major opposition parties, the government is expected to have enough votes to pass the bill.

Islamic political parties have in the past warned against legislation contrary to Islamic provisions that allow the settlement of cases through forgiveness by heirs or payment of “blood money” to the victims or their family.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), the largest Islamic party in Parliament, was represented in the committee that approved the anti-honor killings bill Thursday. A spokesman or members of the party, which is allied with Prime Minister Sharif’s government, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Mr. Sharif’s daughter and an influential member of the ruling party, said consensus on the anti-honor killings bill was “great news for Pakistan”. “Was a v uphill task. Countless days & nights have gone into it,” she tweeted from her verified account.

Updated On: Jul 22, 2016