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Women’s Task Force Urges Attention to Woman Lawyer and Rights Under Threat for Pursuing Honor Killings of Two in Pakistan

June 12, 2014

Via Asian Human Rights Commission
9 June 2014 – The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that the life of a lady lawyer and human rights defender is under threat for pursuing the murder case of two women who were killed in the name of honour. The murderers quickly tried to bury the bodies claiming that they both committed suicide after the exposure of their illicit relations. The local politicians from the ruling party used high police officials to stop the court order of the exhumation of the bodies. The lawyer was threatened to keep away from the case.
The killers have made several attacks on the lawyer’s chambers and threatened that if she pursues the case she and her children will not be spared. The killers told her that killing one more woman would not increase the sentence for killing two already. The police and courts have ignored the threats to the lawyer.
Ms. Munaza Bukhari, advocate and prominent human rights defender of Pakpattan, Punjab province, is under threat of death by the alleged killers of the two women who were killed on the pretext of honour on the accusation of having illicit relationships out of wedlock. The government, courts and police have been informed, but it looks as if the authorities are biding their time and waiting for the attempt to kill her. This is similar to the case of Mr. Rashid Rehman, a human rights defender fighting the case of a professor who was accused of Blasphemy. He was shot dead in his chambers. Mr. Rehman had received threats to his life in a court room before the judge. The judge and the authorities ignored the threats.
Whenever there has hearing of the case in different courts, Ms. Bukhari was threatened in the court premises themselves, that she would be killed in the same manner as the two women. On more than three occasions the alleged killers attacked her chambers and boasted that they were not afraid as the sentence for three women would be the same as that for killing two.
The details of the case which resulted in the threats to her life are as follows:
On 24 February, two young women Ms. Parveen Bibi, 26, and Ms. Shakeela, 17, resident of Chak No. 77/D, Malka Hans, district Pakpattan, Punjab were allegedly poisoned to death on the pretext of hounor killing. They were suspected of having illicit relations out of their marriage.
Ms. Parveen Bibi, the mother of three children, was married to Mansab Ali six years ago while the other woman Ms. Shakeela was the sister of Mansab Ali and married to her cousin just eight months earlier. The husband of Bibi and the closed relatives of the deceased women claim that both the women were having illicit relations with two men, causing shame for the family honour, and at the disclosure of their illicit relations and accusation; they confessed and then committed suicide because of the shame.
However the neighbors and the local community of the same village believe that Mansab Ali, in connivance with other family elders killed his wife and sister by administering them poisonous pills as they doubted their honour. They also informed the police about the death of two women in mysterious circumstances.
The family members of the deceased women were in a rush to bury them in the village graveyard silently but the news of alleged murder spread out. The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Muhammad Akram rushed to the village along with the Station House Officer (SHO) of Malka Hans and started inquiring about the incident. During the initial inquiry and investigation of the police the accused husband, Mansab Ali, and other family members were unable to provide satisfactory reason and cause of death. On the suspicious grounds, the police stopped the burial without postmortem.
When the accused and his family felt that the police were not satisfied with the answers provided they panicked. The husband, along with other family members, approached the local politicians from the ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and some landlords of the area to seek help against the police interference into the matter. The local politicians used their influence and stopped police to further investigate. Later, the police let the family to bury both women without a postmortem.
Meanwhile, after the burial, on the basis of having strong reason of suspicious death of the women, Ms. Munaza Bokhari, the lawyer, intervened and demanded the exhumation of bodies. On the fear of being exposed, the Malka Hans police reported the matter in their daily register on 27th Feb, three days after the murder.
On March 2, Ms. Munaza Bokhari, herself became the complainant and filed a writ petition before the court of local Magistrate Mazhar Fareed for exhuming the bodies and registration of an FIR against the alleged killers. The complainant pleaded to the Magistrate and sought permission for the exhumation of the bodies as she believed that the Deputy Superintendant of Police, Muhammad Ikram and former Station House Officer of the Malka Hans police station, Ashfaq Husain were concealing facts by converting the double murder into suicide. Interestingly, later the the police, just to save itself, also filed a writ petition at the local court for a post-mortem of the bodies.
On 8 March, the court of Magistrate accepted the plea and gave the orders for opening up of the graves on13 April. In the meantime, the police and legal heirs of the two deceased women forced the court that in Islam exhumation of the graves of women is prohibited therefore stopped the exhumation. The lawyer, Ms. Bukhari, after observing the pressure from the politician of the ruling party and the police tilt towards the perpetrators, also filed a petition before the Session Court of Additional Judge Mr. Bashir Choudry, for the exhumation of the bodies to get the cause of the death. The Additional Sessions Court also ordered for exhumation of the graves and fixed the date on April 22 for excavation of the graves. On the date of exhumation all arrangements were made and the magistrate and other court staff and technicians from the government were present at the graves. However, just before the exhumation, the main accused person, Mansab Ali and 19 others filed a petition before the bench of Justice Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah of the Lahore High Court to grant a stay order against the exhumation of the graves. The court without hearing the point of view of other party immediately granted the stay order and the exhumation was stopped until the vacation of the stay order. The High Court single Bench fixed the date of next hearing on April 28, but on the date judge postponed the next hearing for left over, which means when there would be time available from the court’s ’cause list’ the case would be heard.
The lawyer, Ms. Munaza Bukhari, is being followed and whenever she comes in contact with killers they threaten her that if she comes to the next hearing she would be killed.
The alleged killers have no fear of the law and they know how to manipulate with courts and police. They have not only used the police but also obtained help from the High Court as it is commonly known that judges are biased against women in general. Therefore it is an easy matter to get relief from the courts by taking the shelter behind Islam.
The case of Ms. Munaza Bukhari, advocate, is no different from the case of Mr. Rashid Rehman, the lawyer and prominent human rights defender, who was gunned down by unknown persons at his chambers at 8.45 p.m. He had been receiving death threats from the Muslim fundamentalists since February. In the month of April he was threatened in court during the proceedings before the judge by a lawyer, Zulfiqar Sindhu and two other complainants and was warned that from the next hearing he should not defend a Muslim lecturer of Bahawalpur University in a case of Blasphemy. Sindhu actually stated before the judge that Mr. Rehman would be eliminated. The presiding judge remained silent and took no notice of the threats by the bigots who were forcing the judge to sentence the lecturer to death.
The judge of the anti terrorist court totally ignored the threats given from the lawyer before him, the same attitude was shown by the local authorities and police that allowed the killers the freedom to kill in the name of Islam.
In the case of Rashid Rehman the killers knew how to get impunity from courts, police and authorities and they were successful. Until now no one has been arrested and even the Multan district bar association has not taken any action against the lawyer who threatened to kill Rehman before the judge.
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