Take a good look at this face, and don’t forget it.
This is Mir Israr Ullah Zehri, a senator from the Baluchistan provice of Pakistan.
Six weeks back, three girls (teenagers, age 16-18) and two older women were abducted by men from the Umrani tribe. They were shot first, and while injured, thrown into a pit and buried alive. Their crime? Wishing to choose the men they would get married to. The two elder women were their mothers, killed possibly because they were sympathetic to the girls’ wishes. Their bodies were found half-eaten by animals.
It became a scandal, the Asian Human Rights Commission confirmed the inhuman murders, and when a woman senator Bibi Yasmin Shah raised it in Pakistan’s parliament, Mir Israr Ullah Zehri stood up.
This is what he said:
“These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them.”
“Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid.”
Mir Israr Ullah Zehri told the stunned Pakistan parliament on Friday that such Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity. He demanded that other legislators should not make a big issue out of it.
How did the Upper House (Senate) react to this outrageous observation?
With silence. Only three other senators supported Bibi Yasmin Shah, the rest kept quiet.
For those of you who do not know, women have very little freedom or choice in their lives in many tribal societies, and when they dare go against the wishes of their families or against tribal traditions, this is what happens to them. Honour killings, as they are called, are practised in many tribal and feudal societies.
We can’t do much about it, of course.
The Pakistani government is treading carefully – it does not like to upset politicians from the Baluchistan province.
Honor killings are nothing new in many backward Asian societies (I am an Asian – no racial prejudice intended), and very common in the rural parts of Pakistan. But it is rarely, anywhere in the world, that you find a senator defending the practice in a parliament.