Murder Disguised as Honor: The Issue of Honor Killings in Pakistan (Qandeel Baloch)

Qandeel Baloch, from her official Facebook Page: "As women we must stand up for ourselves....As women we must stand up for each other....As women we must stand up for justice."

Qandeel Baloch, from her official Facebook Page: "As women we must stand up for ourselves....As women we must stand up for each other....As women we must stand up for justice."

LAHORE, Pakistan - Tasleem was a good Muslim girl living in the slums of Lahore, Pakistan, until she was seen with a Christian man. A young girl who behaves outside of the strict code of conduct placed on women in Pakistan brings great dishonor to her family, enough dishonor that family members often believe that the only option is death. According to her brother, Rajhu, she had brought dishonor to her family, but mostly to him, and because he had such thin skin and was unable to withstand the constant teasing at work, he decided the only course of action was to commit a barbaric killing.

He was not the only one at fault, because it was revealed that co-workers encouraged him to kill his sister for "being disobedient" and the only way to preserve his manhood was to take her life.  So, on  August 14 , 2016 Rajhu shot his sister in the head.

Tasleem tragic fate is not unique, since approximately 1,000 Pakistani women are murdered by members of their family in so called “honor killings” every year. Many experts believe that this is an under estimation because these killings are often unreported. Honor killing murders are widely accepted and encouraged to keep women from being disobedient. Women who bring dishonor to their family by having relations with men outside of her religion or doing anything outside of the enforced designated role of a woman are no longer deemed valuable to her family.

The biggest issue with these murders is that historically the killers face little to no punishment, and this has led to the systemic belief by families and many in society that this type of murder is acceptable. In the cases that are reported there are few legal ramifications because of loopholes in Islamic law, including Qisaas and Diyah. These two remedies allow for a family member of the victim to 'kill the killer,' or accept Diyah, 'blood money' as recompense in lieu of judicial punishment.

The practice of Diyah further dehumanizes women and diminishes their role and worth in society. As such, they become little more than chattel to be abused, sold, or otherwise disposed of as the owner desires.

In an article by Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls, title “Islam and equality between men and women,” he clearly articulates with supporting exegesis the equality of women and men in Qur'an.

The texts which follows are Dr. Nabuls' words and interpretations and should not be considered our opinion.

"Women are human exactly like men, and the Prophet PBUH said in this respect:"

Women are twin halves of men.

"And He [the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)] said also:"

Every new-born child is born in a state of fitrah (innate). Then his parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian, just as an animal is born intact. Do you observe any among them that are maimed (at birth)?

[Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Nasaee, Abu Dawood, Ahmad, and Malek]

"This new-born indicates male and female. Any inferior look at the woman as less human than man is a Jahilyya (pre-Islamic) consideration that is not admitted in Islam. Better yet, Islam came to fight such consideration as a form of discrimination."

Despite the above admonitions to not define women as less than human, Pakistanis and others continue to do so. Then, when the male, and sometimes female members of the woman’s family murder her in an honor killing, instead of seeking justice, these perpetrators are quickly forgiven and given money. Rarely, if ever, does anyone call for the ultimate penalty of 'killing the killer' as one of the three remedies for murder in Islamic law.

Compounding the issue, everyone in the community, including her family feels justified in their actions of killing a human being who has done nothing other than being born female. This abhorrent practice of honor killing cloaked in the guise of Islam is absolutely misogynistic, and has been codified into traditional practice versus righteous behavior.

In the case of economic gain, the killing is also contrary to Islam. This is particularly true if it is deemed that imprisonment of a brother or father for an honor killing would result in their inability to earn income or support their family. This further incentives the community not to punish them . Yet, the killing of a woman due to poverty or simply because she is female is considered sin. Again, according to Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls:

 "The Prophet PBUH was asked once:"

 What is the worst sin in the sight of Allah?........He said: “And to kill your children for fear of poverty.” [Agreed upon]

 "And Allah says in the noble Quran:"

 (And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed?)     [Al Takweer, 8-9]

"Man and woman are created so as to know by innate nature what is wrong and what is right, and to know when they do wrong and when they do right.

This is the real Islam according to its origins and resources. It is not what Muslims do nowadays; it is rather the great principles established by the noble prophet (PBUH)."

 Allah says:

(Indeed he succeeds who purifies his ownself (i.e. obeys and performs all that Allah ordered, by following the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism and by doing righteous good deeds). And indeed he fails who corrupts his ownself (i.e. disobeys what Allah has ordered by rejecting the true Faith of Islamic Monotheism or by following polytheism, etc. or by doing every kind of evil wicked deeds))     [As-shams, 9-10]

"This Ayah addresses both men and women. Saving one’s life is like saving all mankind, and killing one person is like killing all mankind.

Dear brothers, woman is equal to man as a human being, and as a person who has the ability to transcend, sublime, excel, and to be looked up to." (Dr. Mohammed Rateb Nabuls)

Unfortunately, Dr. Nabuls' voice of moderation is drowned out by the preponderance of ideologies espoused by those who refuse to learn, feel disenfranchised and powerless, or simply like to murder women who they feel have aggrieved them. Pakistani women from all walks of life continue to be murdered, and even fame does not protect them. In countries around the world, even in the United States, aberrant interpretations of Islam have radicalized uneducated people who then chose to follow the fallacious teachings of ‘man,' and perpetrate all manner of violence.

In the case of women, men who ascribe to these teachings and beliefs subjugate the females in their inner circle, their communities, and under these conditions women’s rights are minimal and dependent upon their obedience to men. Specifically, women in Pakistan are unable to do anything about their situation because as soon as they speak out against their oppression they are immediately in risk of death.

Activist groups have stepped in as a voice for voiceless, and Pakistani female activists have been advocating for stricter punishments for those who commit honor killings. Finally, on 6 October 2016 their voices were heard, largely as a result of the media coverage given to the murder of Fouzia Azeem (فوزیہ عظیم‎;) who was also known as Qandeel Baloch, (قندیل بلوچ‎)‎.

According to news reports, Baloch was a Pakistani model, actress, feminist activist and social media celebrity. She was only 26-years-old when her brother murdered her on 15 July 2016 in an honor killing. Her death was the impetus needed to finally push forward legislation to eradicate this practice and reform Pakistan's Penal Code. The bill unanimously passed through Pakistan’s parliament, and closes the qisaas loophole by no longer allowing perpetrators of honor killings to be set free because they have been granted forgiveness from the family.

Additionally, those accused of honor killing will be given a minimum of 25 years in prison. This amendment is meant to change the culture of honor killings in Pakistan by showing that honor killings, no matter the circumstances or reason behind it, is now punishable in secular court.  The bill is the first step to enacting a long list of reforms that need to occur before the oppression of women stops.

Passing these laws will not result in an immediate change in the long tradition of female oppression, but it does send the message that the government is finally willing to reform Pakistan's laws to protect women from their own families.

As the Pakistan's prime minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said, there is no honor in honor killing.

A Call to Reason and Cooperation in Dealing with Increasing Global Terrorism

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the King Hussein Convention Centre, at the Dead Sea May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

ISRAEL - It is always the innocent who end up suffering the most, no matter what the conflict happens to be. This is a sad reality of the world we live in, and one in which we are confronted with daily, because of an increase in global conflict, terrorism, and the instability of nations. Weaponized hatred and terror has significantly increased in the present day, as leaders of extremists’ groups radicalize individuals and deploy them in unexpected attacks which are difficult to predict. The inability to anticipate these attacks has resulted in nations being forced to introduce stringent security measures that are more restrictive on innocent citizens, but at the same time fail in curtailing the acts of real terrorists, who often slip through undetected.

The recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels are both examples of radicals who inflicted mayhem in a misguided attempt to express their loyalty to groups like ISIS. These individuals were easily manipulated into committing a series of reprehensible acts; acts which were concocted without any real goal in mind other than to instill terror, confusion, and suspicion. Unlike true revolutionaries, who have set and clearly defined objectives (which may at times result in violence), and whose methods are usually meant to garner support for their cause, these radicals are primarily focused only on differentiating themselves from whatever element they strove to rebel against. In short, their acts of terror promise peace if only the citizens would choose their cause over that of the incumbent government. Usually, nothing could be farther from the truth as citizen’s usually replace the devil they know with an equally deceptive regime.

It is a sad matter of fact, but domestic and international terrorists are only increasing in their attempts to target America, the E.U., Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Indeed, few places in the world now seem off limits. At times, it seems as if these terrorists enjoy a twisted pleasure in targeting innocent men, women, and children- regardless of their country of origin, background, or religion. When people think of terrorism, they usually associate it with organization such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda. In reality, however, these groups are not always behind the attacks. There are just as many attacks by ‘lone’ wolves (individuals who act on their own accord) who seek revenge for real or perceived offences. Such was the case with Yosef Haim Ben David, an Israeli settler who orchestrated the murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdair, who was beaten and burned alive in the summer of 2014. By his own admission, Ben David admitted that Khdair’s murder was largely in response to Hussam Qawasmeh’s kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in that same year. These examples are particularly worthwhile to note, because they go to highlight the fact that acts of terror are not always attributed to any one side or the other. Instead, they should be seen for what they are - baseless crimes of hate. Blame for these actions should be placed squarely on the person or persons who are solely responsible for perpetrating these heinous acts.

On Tuesday, 19 April 2016, the BBC News reported that the ringleader in the murder of Abu Khdair was found guilty by an Israeli court. Ben David has yet to be sentenced, but judgement is anticipated to be harsh and followed by a lengthy prison sentence.  Meanwhile, in a similar case, The New York Times reported on January 6, 2015 that Hussam Qawasmeh, the Palestinian behind the Kidnap and Murder of the 3 Israeli teens, received 3 consecutive life sentences for his role in the murders. Both cases are extreme examples of people who acted on their own accord; individuals who took out their anger on innocent bystanders, in a misguided attempt to inflict pain on those whom they perceived as having harmed or insulted them. While they truly believed they were furthering the agendas of their governments, the fact of the matter is that in reality they had little or no insight into the broader political and security process which governments take into consideration when combating terrorism. The heinous acts committed by these men are theirs alone, and for these crimes they have been judged and found guilty. It is a case in which respect for and protection of human rights trumped all other agendas.

By the same note, it is the job of respective governments to strive to put aside their differences when confronting the global threat from extremists. World powers must unite in this endeavor, and the responsibility of overcoming these threats must be shared. Great examples of this can be seen through the workings of countries such as India and Pakistan, who have recently learned to cooperate in tackling this issue. Just this past month, for example, The Indian Express reported that intelligence from Pakistan’s security apparatus was shared with its long-time rival, India, in preventing a large-scale terror attack from being carried out on Indian soil. This selfless act undoubtedly helped to save lives and must be praised for showing what can be achieved when countries work in setting aside their personal differences, and instead choose to protect innocent civilians - regardless of their creed or nationality. Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East can (and indeed should) all learn to follow suit, because It’s not too late.

What people must now come to a consensus on is that tragedy should cease to be politicized. Pain is not a zero-sum game. One tragedy, should not work in taking away from another. Nor should it justify it. In this sense, the pain and strife which has befallen the Palestinian people, for example, should not take away from the pain and strife which is now unfolding in Israel. Both sides are equally right in hurting, and both sides must learn to empathize with the other. Only in this way, will real progress be made. Not only in the now decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also throughout the traumatized region.

Contributing Journalist: @JonEizyk
LinkedIn: Jon Eizyk

Karachi Heat Wave, Hottest in Recorded History, Death Toll Surpasses 1,100

ice-seller-karachi-sindh-pakistan-photo-by-raja-islam.jpg

KARACHI, Pakistan - As the temperature approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit civilians struggle to stay dehydrated. Now that temperatures have surpassed 112°F or 45°C people are dying in the streets. This heat wave is one of the highest recorded temperatures since another deadly heat wave overtook the country 15-year-ago.

With people staggering through the streets, those who are clear minded take refuge in hospitals, shops, or covered markets, while the morgues and cemeteries continue to fill. Over 1,100 people have died, with an additional 14,000 being treated at hospitals around the city.

Symptoms of heat stroke include headache, dizziness, delirium and unconsciousness as well as abnormally high body temperature (over 103°F.) At the Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center in Sindh's capital, Karachi, heat stroke victims are wheeled in daily, swelling the numbers well beyond capacity. The overwhelmed doctors and nurses do what they can. (Source: CNN) 

Many civilians have collapsed in the streets because of the heat, and may lay prostrate for hours before being discovered. Under any circumstances a heat wave is an unfortunate natural disaster, but the timing of this heat wave coincides with Ramadan, a time when Muslims fast, abstaining from both food and water from sunrise to sunset. Although older people, the infirmed, and pregnant or nursing women are allowed an exemption from fasting, heat exhaustion and strokes remain a source of danger to this segment of the population despite the dispensation.

With the death toll increasing daily, morgues have become full to overflowing. CNN interviewed a grave digger at one of the city’s central graveyard. He says that because of the growing number of dead he is having trouble “finding places to bury them” and thus has resorted to making graves between graves.

News sources, including the BBC have also reported that the exponential rate of increase in the deaths of Pakistanis is concomitant with a massive power failure. A little after midnight on Thursday multiple grid stations of the K-Electric (previously KESC) went offline for three hours before finally being restored. (Source: GeoTV)

Thus, the unfortunate confluence of the summer heat and the most pervasive infrastructure failure in recent history has resulted in a death toll exceeding 1,100s. Though temperatures seemed to have abated somewhat many more are predicted to die, especially the poor, the young, and the old remain most vulnerable.

Those who were affluent or fortunate enough to own air conditioners or fans stand a chance of staving off heat prostration, but these isolated opportunities to survive this natural and man-made disaster remain few and far between and utterly inaccessible to the general public. The people of Karachi and even the Taliban blame the government and K-Electric for the majority of the deaths; and those who have strength and energy enough have begun to protest and demand justice for those who have died.

Contributing Journalist: @ VictoriaCopeland