The murder of Samia Shahid, a Bradford resident who had a second marriage against her family’s will, is like being in a repetitive nightmare. It seems so familiarly eerie and without escape. Punjab Police, lead by a watchful committee summoned by the Chief Minister, now say her death in Pandori, Punjab was not a natural one like they first said it was. They say Samia was asphyxiated and the bruise on her neck shows signs of strangulation. Naz Shah a Bradford West MP who is personally pursuing the case and has written to the Prime Minister about it wants Samia’s body, which had a swift burial, exhumed and investigated fully.
What will be discovered after the autopsy is something everyone knows: Her family who are suspected to have killed her; her first husband who is at large; her second husband who has also got death threats and all Pakistanis. Like I said, this is familiar and inescapable. Everything points to this being an honor killing.
The state is interested in making sure it doesn’t embarrass itself with such high profile cases. What is does to prevent this is soft peddle around the famous cases, such as this one, then go back to being complacent for the small fish. The reason these murders keep happening is because the state fails at its measure of force. There is no muscle flexed to whip the wrong doers into line so no one ever tries it again. The problem is that they don’t follow the doctrine of no second chances.
In a Pakistan where no second chances are allowed, male lawmakers would not call their female lawmakers sexist names and continue to sit in parliament. In such a Pakistan the mob that burned to death a young teacher in Muree for rejecting a suitor, would not be at large. In such a Pakistan over 1000 honor-killings would not be reported on average every year. We shudder to think of the unreported numbers.
In a society where all freedoms, authorities and laws make men comfortable, anytime women define their will, it is considered an aggression – however micro. The reactionary murders of women, burnings or cuts and scrapes are then easily rationalized. This is a country that celebrates the valor of the brother who killed social media celebrity Qandeel Balooch. This is a country where educated young graduates celebrated the father who attempted to murder his daughter in Sharmeen Obaid’s film – A Girl in the River. How do we go from crowning murderers to empowering women without the state giving all offenders a clear message that wrongs against women are wrongs against the state?
We don’t. Instead the onus is said to rest on women. Why don’t change their state? Let’s just say that women are petrified. Not much transformation happens when self-preservation is a constant state of mind. The bolder women are eaten up, devoured by the hyenas this state protects. So we hide in corners, speak in monosyllables and look the other way when men oppress other women in our families, in our workplaces and in our parliaments. Sometimes we even join them in the oppression.
Last few weeks, Pakistanis have been rejoicing over the fact that a mocha-skinned native of this country who adopted America as his home showed Donald Trump some daylight stars. Khizar Khan who’s Pakistani-American son served in the US army, waved a pocket sized US Constitution to Trump and asked him to read it. We need a Pakistani Khizar Khan to wave the Pakistani constitution to its premier.
There are guarantees of equality in Article 25, 26 and 27. There are promises of no discrimination based on gender. Lets face it. If a Khizer Khan were to wave such a pocket edition of the Pakistani constitution, he’d be booed out, ostracized and worse, ignored.
The only way for people to snap out of the recurrent nightmare of honor killings is for the state to behave as it is under contract with its citizens to behave – give no second chances to murderers – To treat killing as killing. To severe the invisible but strong tie of women’s right to be individuals with the need for men to determine some shifty social status.