Tragic tales of Honour Killing in Pakistan

Like in all communities, there are some extremely regressive attitudes and at the same time, there are very many progressive voices pushing for change.  Similarly but tragically, Pakistan too is plagued with one such community affair, “Karo Kari/ Siyah Kari”  ~ honor killing.

 It has the highest volume of documented and estimated honor killings per capita of any country in the world; more than one-fifth of the world’s honor killings are performed in Pakistan (1500 out of the 5000 total).

The tragic story of  Kohistan

The very nature of honor killings reflects deeply entrenched notions of “honor” and “morality”.  In a patriarchal culture like Pakistan’s, where domestic violence is rampant, it is not unusual for men to murder female relatives to punish behavior they deem unacceptable.

Sadly there aren’t many Afzal’s to fight against such atrocities on women in Pakistan

Jigra’s Need to Go!

In most reported cases, the harshest punishments on grounds of “honour” come from male-dominated jirgas, tribal and village councils. There are no credible official figures on “honor” killings because they often go unreported. Most cases often happen in small villages or behind closed doors and do not reflect the full extent of the issue, as honour killings have a high level of support in Pakistan’s rural society. Data and its absence are difficult to interpret. One reason is the reluctance to report honour killings to official bodies. Another reason is that honour killings are occurring in cultural and social contexts which do not recognize the criminality of honour killings.

According to Human Rights Watch, NGOs/INGOs in the area estimate that around 2000 honor killings are carried out each year in Pakistan. Although not specific to honor killing, historically, the highest reported cases for violence against women in Pakistan are in the Punjab province.

Endless list of atrocities on women in Pakistan

In one of the most publicized honor killing cases committed in Pakistan, Samia Sarwar was murdered by her family in the Lahore office of well-known human rights activists Asma Jahangir and Hina Jilani in April 1999. BBC documentary, “License to Kill,” coversSamia’s killing in Pakistan. 

Amnesty International reported that on 27 April 2009, Ayman Udas, a Pashtun singer from the Peshawar area, was shot to death apparently by her two brothers who “viewed her divorce, remarriage and artistic career as damaging to family honor.” No one was prosecuted.
A widely reported case was that of Tasleem Khatoon Solangi, 17, of Hajna Shah village in Khairpur district, where in eight months’ pregnant Tasleem was tortured and killed on March 7, 2008, by members of her village claiming that she had brought dishonor to the tribe. 

In August 2008, five women were killed by tribesmen of the Umrani Tribe of Balochistan. The five victims – three teens, and two middle-aged women – were kidnapped, beaten, shot, and then buried alive because they refused the tribal leader’s marriage arrangements and wanted to marry men of their own choosing. Sadly, Senator Israr Ullah Zehri defending the killings, stating, “these are centuries-old traditions and I will continue to defend them.

On 27 May 2014, a pregnant woman named Farzana Iqbal was stoned to death by her family in front of a Pakistani High Court for eloping and marrying Muhammad Iqbal. Police investigator Mujahid quoted the father as saying: “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it.” 

In 2015, a documentary was released about Saba Qaiser, a woman from Punjab, Pakistan, who married a man against her family’s wishes because his family was of “lowly status.” In response to her elopement, her father and uncle beat her, shot her in the head, put her body in a sack, and threw the sack into a river. Amazingly, Saba survived the violent attack, escaped the sack, swam to shore, and was able to get help at a local gas station.

In July 2016, popular Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled by her brother in an act of honor killing in Multan in the province of Punjab.

In July 2016, Samia Shahid, flew to visit her family in Pakistan under false pretenses. She was told to come immediately because her father was dying. On July 20, 2016, she was found dead – raped and strangled – at the home of her former husband. 

The BBC documentary reports that Samia was able to briefly escape the attack by Shakeel and run into his hallway but then she was then confronted by her father who nodded his approval to Shakeel before Shakeel strangled Samia.

In January 2017 a Pakistani mother was sentenced to death for killing her daughter by burning her alive, for ‘bringing shame to the family’ by marrying against her family’s wishes.

2018 …

Violence continues against women and girls, in the name of so-called “honor”. Parallel and informal justice systems continue to undermine the rule of law and to issue unjust “verdicts” that punish women and girls.

In July, this year a village council in Multan district ordered and carried out the rape of a teenage girl in “revenge” for a crime allegedly committed by her brother.

In August, the bodies of a teenage couple in Karachi were exhumed to reveal evidence of electric shocks. In September, a man in Peshawar city killed his two daughters because he suspected they had boyfriends… and so on.


All these customs come from a very shameful mindset. Honour killing is a serious Human Right issue which continues to plague Pakistan.  Pakistani society lives in a state of denial. There is a diffuse refusal of introspection. This refusal goes from the society to the state and from the state back to the society. It will be difficult to overcome such taboos without a proper emancipation, coming out, raising awareness and discussion of reality.


13 Dec 18/Thursday.                                                                     Written by Afsana