Just days after the horrific massacre of 10 foreign mountaineer-tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan in extreme northern Pakistan, it has emerged that three local women were shot to death in the region in an apparent “honor killing.”
According to a report in BBC, the three victims, all members of the same family, a mother and her two daughters, were allegedly killed by the woman’s stepson, who thought they had brought shame and dishonor to the family.
Police said that the “offending act” was a family video in which the daughters were shown smiling and laughing in front of their home with some other girls during a rainstorm. In addition, an audio recording included one of the women apparently thanking an admirer for a gift she had received.
Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, reported that the killings took place in the town of Chilas and that the dead were the wife and daughters of a retired police officer named Rehmat Nabi. Dawn said that five masked men barged into their house to commit the massacre. The stepbrother in question is named Khutore. However, he has escaped the area, while police have arrested the other four shooters, who have confessed.
The video was apparently taken six months ago, Dawn said, and the images had been circulating on mobile phones in this remote, mountainous and extremely conservative area since then.
Honor killings are quite common in Pakistan, particularly in isolated areas like Gilgit-Baltistan, a region where women are discouraged from talking to or even being seen by males outside their family.
In fact, last June, five women and two men were killed in the same region after video footage emerged of the group singing and dancing at a wedding.
Honor killings refer to the murder of people (primarily women) who have supposedly committed some act deemed to be a defamation of a family’s honor.
Such acts may include marrying someone regarded as unsuitable, sex before marriage, demanding a divorce, a woman (married or unmarried) being raped or even things as mundane and innocent as calling a radio station to ask for a song to be played on air or a girl seen talking to a boy.
Although honor killings are typically associated with Muslim countries like Turkey, Iraq and especially Pakistan, the practice has nothing to do with Islam. Rather, it is rooted in ancient tribal customs whereby the honor of a family or a whole village is represented by the morality, chastity and proper behavior of its women. Any perceived violation of that sense of honor often leads to deadly consequences.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2011, 943 women were killed for apparently dishonoring their family -- the actual number of such murders is likely much higher since some deaths are masqueraded as accidents or suicides.
In the majority of these cases, the killer was the girl’s father, husband or brother.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.