The very next morning Qandeel Baloch’s father accused one of his sons of murdering his daughter and approached the police to register a case against him.
Such alacrity is not the norm, and therefore it raised many an eyebrow. There must be some method to this madness, many in there wondered. And indeed there was a method to her father’s promptness.
As the ‘wali’ (legal guardian) of Qandeel he could pardon his son, a waiver permitted under the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance which treats honour killing a pardonable offence. Of course with such a made-up openness to the case the police took no time in registering an FIR against the brother of Qandeel, who made himself available for arrest without any fuss.
The pieces were falling into their places, if with connivance of the local police we do not know. But we do know that the social media didn’t take long to see through the game and raised hell against the local police, forcing the Punjab government to change the FIR by adding Sections 305 and 311 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) to the FIR.
Section 305 maintains that the ‘wali’ will be the heir of the victim but it excludes the accused or convict in case of ‘qatl-i-amd’ if committed in the name or on the pretext of honour. Section 311 refers to legal proceedings after the waiver or the compounding of qisas in a wilful murder.
Though both the sections don’t outrightly contravene applicability of Islamic jurisprudence provision for ‘diyat’ (blood money) and ‘qisas’ (an eye for an eye retribution), they do transform the FIR into a non-compoundable case.
Unlike the common law, which forms the basis of the Pakistan Penal Code, under the provisions of ‘Diyat’ and ‘Qisas’ crimes affecting human body are no longer considered against society or state but an individual, and therefore pardonable – an impunity invoked to pardon Raymond Davis in 2011 and Shahzaib in 2013.
Rightly then, the decision of the Punjab government to make murder of Qandeel Baloch an unpardonable offence has been widely hailed by people. Amnesty International has called upon the government to go a step further by ending immunity for the so-called honour killings and other violence against women.
The Punjab government’s decision to deny Qandeel’s family the legal right to grant clemency, according to it, “needs to become rule rather than exception.” Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Secretary General I A Rehman is quite upbeat, hoping “bigger changes will happen when the law is changed,” but “that cannot be done without adopting the bill pending in parliament.”
Maybe, such a buildup of public opinion in favour of turning each honour killing into an unpardonable crime would help our parliamentarians feel bold enough to go for amending the PPC accordingly. Chance for such a change is at hand. After watching the Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s ‘A Girl in the River’, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to have promised to “change the laws that allowed families to murder their daughters”.
The provisions of ‘qisas’ and ‘diyat’ were injected into the PPC during General Zia’s regime by the government on the order of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court. An impression has come to obtain that since then honour killings are on the rise.
Under the existing law the family of the murder victim may pardon the perpetrator, including by payment of compensation known as ‘diyat’ or ‘blood money’. In case of Qandeel Baloch’s murder her father’s thinking could be that being her ‘wali’ he would pardon his son if convicted even without paying the ‘diyat’.
According to the HRCP, more than 3,000 women were killed in the name of ‘honour’ between 2008 and 2014. That Qandeel Baloch’s murder would help save many other Qandeels is certainly a strong possibility.