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PostPosted: Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:30 am 
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Pakistan: 'Honor' killings grow more brutal, draw backlash
By KATHY GANNON
4 July 2016

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) -- Parveen Rafiq screamed from her rooftop, "I have killed my daughter. I have saved my honor. She will never shame me again."

In the room below lay the charred body of 18-year-old Zeenat. Neighbors in the narrow alley who saw the smoke and heard screams rushed to Rafiq's home, but the door was bolted from within. Zeenat was dead. Her mother had choked her, and while the girl was still alive she doused with kerosene and set her on fire.

Zeenat's crime was to marry a childhood friend she loved, defying her widowed mother's pressure for an arranged marriage and, in the mind of her mother and many of her neighbors, tarnishing her family's honor. Her death on June 8 was the latest in a series of increasingly gruesome "honor" killings in Pakistan, which has one of the highest rates of such killings in the world.

In one case, a mother slit the throat of her pregnant daughter who had married a man she loved. In the city of Abbottabad, a teenage girl who helped a friend elope was tortured, injected with poison and then strapped to the seat of a vehicle and set on fire. A jirga, or council of local elders, ordered her killing as a message to others.

The brutality and rapid succession of killings horrified many Pakistanis. The numbers of such killings have been climbing. Last year, 1,096 women and 88 men were killed in "honor" crimes in Pakistan, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In 2014, the number was 1,005 women, including 82 children, up from 869 women a year earlier. The true numbers are believed to be higher, with many cases going unreported, activists say.

Some human rights and women's rights activists believe the rise in numbers and brutality reflects an older generation digging in against creeping change. Over the years, more women have been going to school and working outside the home, and social media have helped women raise their voices. More than 70 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people are under 30, and some are challenging traditions to an unprecedented degree. "The old order of misogyny and extremism is falling apart, is really crumbling," says Marvi Sermid, a women's rights activist.

Centuries of tradition in Pakistan tie the idea of a woman as an untouched commodity to a family's honor. Traditions have been further strengthened by governments that often curried the support of religious hard-liners with legislation enshrining the old ways. Those who kill for "honor" are almost never punished in Pakistan. A law based on Islamic Shariah allows the family of a victim to forgive a killer, and in these cases the killers are almost always family. So other relatives give their forgiveness, unwilling to see loved ones jailed.

Still, outrage over recent killings and other violence against women has fueled an outcry against the establishment. One target has been the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body of conservative Muslim clerics that advises the government to ensure laws don't stray from Shariah. When the government proposed a law aimed at protecting women against violence, the council in May put forward an alternative allowing men to "lightly beat" their wives.

Young people replied with a Twitter campaign with the mocking hashtag #TryBeatingMeLightly. On TV talk shows, guests denounced the council as misogynist and out of touch. Some lawmakers called for it to be disbanded. The outcry appears to be having an effect. The council in June decreed that honor killings are un-Islamic.

Meanwhile, police and prosecutors have found a way around the forgiveness loophole. Rafiq and one of her sons suspected of helping in Zeenat's killing have been detained and face charges under the anti-terrorism law, which defines any act that causes general panic as terrorism.

Zeenat's death underscores the social traditions that underpin "honor" crimes. For months, neighbors said, her mother complained about her two elder daughters, who married men of their own choice. Zeenat was Rafiq's last chance to save her honor. She planned an arranged marriage for Zeenat with a member of their own social caste, the Rajput, which is said to be descended from kings.

But Zeenat had her heart set on a childhood friend, a 20-year-old motorcycle mechanic named Hassan Khan who lived nearby in their crowded Lahore shantytown. "We were in love," Khan said, his voice barely a whisper. He showed a collection of selfies on his phone that Zeenat had put together to the rhythm of their favorite song, an Urdu pop tune called "You Made Me Your Lover." As the music played, Zeenat in the photos struck different poses, always smiling, her black hair falling past her shoulders. She loved taking selfies, music and poetry, he said. She had memorized the Quran and taught it to local children.

Zeenat and her mother fought about Khan, and Zeenat told him her mother beat her. Khan said Zeenat pleaded with him to marry her. In May, they finally did, marrying at a courthouse. Zeenat moved into Khan's home. A few days later, Zeenat's mother and uncle came, begging her to come home, just for a few days. They said they would arrange a proper wedding for her and Khan, which would save their honor by showing neighbors she didn't elope. Zeenat's uncle promised she would be safe.

Khan's elders eventually agreed that Zeenat would go with her mother. At first, it seemed Zeenat's mother had accepted their marriage, Khan said. But on the fourth day, Zeenat called him, afraid. Her mother was yelling at her threateningly. "I told her to not worry. It was just two more days and she would be back home with me." The next morning, she was dead.

Neighbor women outside Rafiq's home all agreed that the mother was driven to kill Zeenat, and she should go free. "Daughters are duty-bound to maintain the honor of the family," said Muneeba Bibi. "It's better to have no children than to have a daughter who brings you shame." Zeenat's killing was "a good lesson for all the girls here to protect the family honor," she said.

The little girls playing in the alleys all knew Zeenat was killed by her mother. But they weren't sure why. All they knew was she had done something very bad. "She was strangled and then they burned her," said 11-year-old Sameera. "When I think about it I get scared."

In the home he briefly shared with Zeenat, Khan showed a poem she had written on a tissue paper.
"I love you. I kiss you
I love you. I miss you
I take your name with every breath
I see you in every dream
I want to see you all the time"

Khan refolded the fragile tissue and returned it to his wallet. "I want her hanged," he said of Zeenat's mother. "She has to be punished. This is the only way this will stop."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 10:11 pm 
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Pakistan court bans Valentine's Day in capital
By ASIF SHAHZAD
13 February 2017

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- A Pakistani judge on Monday banned all Valentine's Day celebrations in the country's capital, Islamabad, saying they are against Islamic teachings.

The judge ruled on a petition seeking to ban public celebrations of the Western holiday, court official Niaz Saleh said. He said the order had been sent to Pakistan's media regulator to ensure a blackout on any Valentine's Day promotions in print or electronic media. The ban applies only to Pakistan's capital as the Islamabad high court has no jurisdiction beyond the city.

The regulator in a statement directed all Pakistani media outlets not to print or broadcast anything that promotes Valentine's Day. No event shall be held at any official level and at any public place, the statement quoted a part of the court order. Later on Monday, the government issued an order to local police to enforce the court ban. A similar order was in place last year in Islamabad.

Islamist and right-wing parties in Pakistan view Valentine's Day as vulgar Western import. However, the annual homage to romance on Feb. 14 has become popular in recent years across the Middle East and also in Pakistan.

Though some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia also have sought to stamp out Valentine's Day, with the religious police mobilizing ahead of Feb. 14 and descending on gift and flower shops to confiscate all red items, including flowers, it is still celebrated widely in other places such as Dubai.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 6:27 pm 
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Pakistan arrests head of village council over girl's rape
By SHAZIA BHATTI and IRAM ASIM
27 July 2017

RAJA PUR, Pakistan (AP) -- Police on Thursday arrested the head of a village council in central Pakistan for allegedly sanctioning the rape of a teenage girl, a police spokeswoman said, as Amnesty International urged for a ban on such village councils that incite to crimes against women.

In multiple raids over two days, police also arrested 23 councilmen over the same case, according to the spokeswoman, Shabina Kareem. The suspects all attended a July meeting in which council chief Saeed Patwari allegedly gave Mohammad Ashfaq permission to rape a 17-year-old girl to avenge the rape of his 13-year-old sister by another man, Omar Wadda. The 17-year-old is Wadda's sister. Such "honor" crimes are still common in some rural Pakistani areas.

A village council in 2002 ordered the so-called "honor" gang rape of Mukhtar Mai, a young woman who took her rapists to court. That case gathered international prominence and she later opened a school for rural girls.

In this latest case, a regional police chief and some other officers were fired for their belated response after the first rape took place in the village of Raja Pur, near the city of Multan, on July 16. The second rape followed two days later. "We will do justice with the both victims," said Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, during a visit to Multan.

Kareem, the police spokeswoman, said Ashfaq was still at large but Wadda has been arrested and charged with raping Ashfaq's sister.

Residents in Raja Pur stepped forward with shocking details about the council meeting and how the case of the rape was common knowledge. Mohammad Bilal, a cousin of the 17-year-old rape victim, described how the council declined the family's request to turn to the police, instead seeking to do justice in line with traditions of the village - and order the second rape. Bilal said some women from Wadda's family were present when the council met.

The incident angered domestic and international human right activists. Nadia Rahman, Amnesty's campaigner in Pakistan, appealed on Islamabad to crack down on the so-called village councils that prescribe horrific crimes against women, often in revenge for acts committed by others. She said Pakistan's failure to protect women against the arbitrary and cruel decisions of village and tribal councils had been subject of longstanding scrutiny by United Nations' human rights bodies.

Tahira Abdullah, a top human rights activist, condemned the rapes and said that what the council did was illegal. She demanded stern action against all who sanction such crimes.

Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 12:12 am 
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Gunmen kill transgender person in Pakistan
30 August 2017

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani police say gunmen opened fire on a group of transgender people, killing one of them, in an upscale neighborhood in the southern port city of Karachi.

Police officer Aurangzeb Khattak said the shooting took place overnight Wednesday. He said passengers in an SUV first harassed the group by throwing rotten eggs at them and then opened fire before fleeing. He said one bullet struck a person who went by the name Chanda in the head, killing him on the spot.

Khattak said shell casings from a 9 mm pistol were found at the scene and that investigators were using surveillance camera footage to trace the SUV and arrest the culprits. Transgender people are known as Khusra or Heejra in Pakistan.

Source: AP

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