Pakistan to pass law against honour killings, says Maryam

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling party plans to pass long-delayed legislation against “honour killings” within weeks in the wake of the high-profile murder of an outspoken social media star, the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Maryam Nawaz said on Wednesday.

The bill will go before a parliamentary committee as early as Thursday, said Maryam.

The government has faced mounting pressure to pass the law against murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of the honour of their family.

The law would remove a loophole that allows other family members to pardon a killer.

The brother of social media star Qandeel Baloch, has been arrested in connection with her strangling death and told a news conference he was incensed by her often risqu? posts on social media.

Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over perceived damage to “honour” that can involve eloping, fraternising with men or any other infraction against conservative values that govern women’s modesty.

Maryam said that, the government wanted to pass the law unanimously and had been negotiating with religious parties in parliament.

“We have finalised the draft law in the light of negotiations,” she told Reuters in an interview. “The final draft will be presented to a committee of joint session of parliament on July 21 for consideration and approval.”

She also  said that, once the parliamentary committee approved the bill, it would be presented for a vote in a “couple of weeks” before a joint session of parliament.

The upper house of parliament passed the bill in 2014 but it lapsed after the government failed to put it up for a vote in the lower house because it was preoccupied with legislation aimed at tackling security problems and economic reforms.

A senior government official told Reuters all major parties were now backing the bill and it was likely to be passed in a few weeks by a joint session of parliament.

“The prime minister is taking personal interest,” added a second official and close aide to Sharif. “You will see in coming days more will be done, big changes will be announced.”

In a rare move, this week the government became a complainant in the police case against Baloch’s brother accused of her murder, designating it a crime against the state and thereby blocking her family from forgiving their son.

Council of Islamic Ideology, which advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, warned that it would not support any law that removed the forgiveness loophole, even though the council considers honour killings a crime.

“Islamic law and the Koran say that the right to forgive or punish lies first and foremost with the victim’s family,” said council spokesman Inam Ullah.

“So if this bill is trying to completely take away that right from the family, then of course that is against Islamic teachings. The state cannot completely take away that right from the family.” –Reuters

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