Bring Justice to Women Killed for 'honour' in Pakistan sign now

We are writing to express our urgent and grave concern over the barbaric incident in Baba Kot, a village in Usta Mohammed, Balochistan where three to five women were brutally shot and apparently buried alive: three for trying to exercise their fundamental right to determine their own lives and to marry men of their choice, the other two for supporting them and trying to save their lives. The recent police surgeon report indicating that the women were dead when buried does not detract from the fact that they had actually been killed for exercising their fundamental rights.

Shirkat Gah Womens Resource Centre, a womens rights and development organization with UN ECOSOC status is appalled that the brother of the incumbent Balochistan Housing Minister, Mir Sadiq Umrani, is reported to be directly involved, that politically influential forces in Balochistan tried to cover up the matter and that the police failed to register a case until directed to do so by the Balochistan High Court through its suo moto notice.

This suo moto move by Balochistan High Court in greatly appreciated. In contrast the attempts to defend such barbaric actions in the name of customs forwarded in the Senate by two Baloch senators: Sardar Israrullah Zehri and Acting Chairman, Senator Jan Mohammed Jamali has stunned not only human rights workers but all people with any sense of decency. We are relieved that a number of voices from Balochistan have rejected the suggestion that these are tribal customs to be upheld.

That such an incident could happen at all demonstrates a blatant and complete disregard of the laws of the land. It also indicates the serious problem of how brutal violence is perpetuated with impunity when those with power use undue influence to prevent the registration of complaints, investigations and prosecutions. Murder is murder by any name and always unacceptable. Those responsible and those abetting the crime must be brought to book, tried and punished. Of concern is that only two of the five bodies have been recovered; the body of one teenage girl and the two elderly women are missing and it is still not known what had happened to those bodies.

We remind you that the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees fundamental rights to all individuals and that the laws governing Muslim marriages grant women the right to consent to marriage. Even preventing adult women from choosing a marriage partner is unlawful, and restraining any woman from marrying a man of her choice is completely un-lawful.

We draw your attention to the fact that as the signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Pakistan has an obligation to see through its commitment to prevent womens rights violations.

We are encouraged by the resolutions passed in the Senate and the Provincial Assemblies of Sindh and Punjab and hope that these statements of condemnation are taken seriously by the law enforcement agencies and fair investigations be conducted in this case. But resolutions are not enough and we fear that the tribal structures and hold of local influentials may obstruct an impartial inquiry into this matter.

This incident is just one more example of the prevailing intolerance and prejudice towards women and use of force to prevent them from exercising their rights. There is an alarming increase in such incidents as also witnessed in a recent case where a 17-year-old girl was shot dead by her brothers and father while in police custody in Sahiwal after the Court decided in her favour for dissolution of marriage. This is a right upheld by the constitution and the laws of the land.

We therefore call upon you to ensure:
- That the prevalent tribal structures and hold of local influentials are not allowed to obstruct the due process of law and justice
- That fair and impartial investigations are conducted into the Kot Baba case and justice given to the victims by ordering a thorough and an independent judicial enquiry into this case and ensuring that a fair and impartial police report be submitted before the High Court of Balochistan on the next date of hearing that is fixed for September 22nd, 2008
- That all such cases are investigated thoroughly and the culprits brought to justice whether this is in Balochistan in Punjab or any other territory of Pakistan
- Country-wide measures are taken to ensure womens security and access to their rights as guaranteed under the constitution and Pakistans laws.

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Alice BaldwinBy:
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THE PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN

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