Teenage couple electrocuted in Pakistan in ‘honor killing’

In this May 29, 2014 photo, members of Pakistan's civil society protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, to condemn the stoning to death of a pregnant woman in a case of "honor killing". In the latest case of honor killing in Pakistan, family members who were carrying out the orders of an influential tribal council electrocuted a teenage couple who tried to elope, police said on Monday. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Updated 11 September 2017
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Teenage couple electrocuted in Pakistan in ‘honor killing’

KARACHI: A Pakistani teenage couple who tried to elope were murdered with electric shocks in an “honor killing” by family members who were carrying out the orders of an influential tribal council, police said.
The teenagers in the port city of Karachi were said by the Pashtun council of elders, or jirga, to have brought dishonor on the community.
“The innocent souls were tied to a charpai (rope bed) and given electric shocks,” said Aman Marwat, the police officer who arrested the two fathers and two uncles and is pursuing some 30 members of the jirga who have gone into hiding.
The 15-year-old girl had allegedly run away with her 17-year-old boyfriend last month, Marwat said.
“The girl was killed and buried first followed by the murder of the boy the next day,” he added.
More than 500 people — almost all women — die in Pakistan each year in such killings, usually carried out by members of the victim’s family meting out punishment for bringing “shame” on the community.
Marwat, who has been in the police for 25 years, said he has dealt with many honor killing cases happening in Karachi.
“It indicates a tribalization of society where jirgas exercise more power than law enforcers,” said Zohra Yusuf, a human rights activist in Pakistan.
Jirgas are often convened, particularly in conservative rural areas, to settle local disputes especially between poor families, and although they operate outside the law, their decisions are often honored and ignored by authorities.
In this case, the two families had come to an agreement for the pair to get married, together with a financial settlement to be paid to the girl’s family, according to Kamal Shah, of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, a non-governmental organization that works in the area.
“The girl’s side had agreed but not the jirga and they warned that if the two families did not carry out the barbaric deed, their family in their village back home would have to bear the consequences,” said Zia Ur Rehman, a Pakistani journalist who first reported on the case.
The case highlights the influence of tribal councils and social pressures in Pakistan, which are often more powerful than the law.
“Laws seem useless,” said Maliha Zia Lari, associate director with Karachi-based Legal Aid Society. “The boy’s father did not think he could seek protection from the state and the jirga members did not fear any reprisals from it either.”


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 15 min 44 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.