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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 13:04 GMT
Pakistan rejects pro-women bill
women protest discriminatory legislation
Women rights groups want strict legislation against honour killings
The Pakistan government has allied with Islamists to reject a bill which sought to strengthen the law against the practice of "honour killing".

The parliament rejected the bill by a majority vote on Tuesday, declaring it to be un-Islamic.

Honour killing is the name given to murders where the offender claims the victim, usually a woman, had brought his family into disrepute.

The bill was rejected after being declared un-Islamic by a majority vote.

Law Minister Wasi Zafar told parliament that there was no need for further amendments in the country's penal code after an amendment bill was passed last December.

However, the opposition - along with several women members from the government benches - has continued to call for further amendments, arguing that the law remained riddled with many loopholes despite the amendment.

Tuesday's bill was introduced by Ms Kashmala Tariq, a member of the ruling Muslim League.


Under the so-called Islamic legislation enacted by General Zia ul Haq, Pakistan's Islamist military ruler in the 1980s, proven killers could seek or buy pardon from the victim's family under the Islamic principles of compromise.

Parliament building, Islamabad
Observers say Islamists still wield influence in parliament

The law has remained essentially unchanged since then.

Observers say that it has been grossly misused and has contributed directly to an alarming increase in the practice of "karo-kari" or the so-called honour killings.

Karo-kari is a tradition whereby a man can kill a woman, claiming that she brought dishonour to the family, and still expect to be pardoned by her relatives.

Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter.

Women victims

Human rights agencies in Pakistan have repeatedly emphasised that most women falling prey to karo-kari were usually those wanting to marry of their own will.

An Islamist protestor
Islamists have an uneasy relationship with the government

In many cases, the victims held properties that the male members of their families did not wish to lose if the women chose to marry outside the family.

Government and independent researchers estimate that over 4,000 women have fallen victim to this practice in Pakistan over the last six years.

In December last year, the government passed a bill making karo-kari punishable under the same penal provisions as murder.

But it did not alter the provisions whereby the accused could negotiate pardon with the victim's family under the so-called Islamic provisions.

These provisions often in conflict with the Anglo-Saxon law inherited by Pakistan in 1947.

Observers in Pakistan say that the defeat of Ms Tariq's bill is a clear indication of the influence that the conservatives still wield on policy-making in Pakistan, despite President Musharraf's liberal outlook.

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