Brutal murder

Editorial Board
Saturday, Mar 30, 2024

Pakistan is no stranger to violence against women, but the video of what has happened in Toba Tek Singh is shocking even by the country’s admittedly low standards. In it, one can see two men, allegedly a female victim's father and one of her brothers, strangling her to death while her hands and feet are tied to the posts of a charpoy. Almost as shocking as the video itself is the attitude of the men committing the crime, with one seen sitting on the charpoy having a fizzy drink while the victim is being strangled and then passing it to the killer after he is done. The entire atmosphere gives the impression of a very matter-of-fact ordeal which only heightens the sense of brutality. Such brazen criminality, apparently against one’s own family, has rarely been captured in such vivid detail. The murder seems to have taken place at night between March 17-18 and it has been reported that the victim’s name is Maria and the alleged perpetrators are her brother Faisal and father Abdul Sattar. The family had buried the victim in the village graveyard and her remains have now been exhumed for forensic testing.

Beyond this, the details become murky. The victim’s sister-in-law, married to a brother who apparently took the video of the murder, claims that Maria confided in her that she was being subject to incest by her brother Faisal and her father. The brother who took the video and his wife claim they were threatened not to interfere, while the former also claims there were two unidentified men in the vicinity before he started filming. The video was allegedly meant to expose what was happening and was shared with a lawyer. The police say there are suspicions that the perpetrators decided to kill the victim after she became pregnant and have arrested both the brother seen in the video (Faisal) and the one taking the video, along with the father. According to them, the case is not as straightforward as it seems. Indeed, it is strange how one could just watch a relative being murdered regardless of whatever threats were made. It is also not known if the perpetrators knew they were being filmed.

It appears only the results of the forensic tests will clear things up. At first glance, this appeared to be a case of what is called ‘honour crimes’. However, the allegations of incest and sexual abuse point to rape and murder. Not that there would have been any ‘honour’ in this had Maria been murdered say for wanting to marry someone against her family’s wishes. As such, one thing is clear: Maria is not alone. Her murder adds to the long list of women who have fallen victim to gender-based violence in Pakistan, with around 63,000 cases between 2020 and 2023 alone. Experts claim that some 80 per cent of these cases involved domestic violence.

Had she somehow survived, she would have become one of the estimated 90 per cent of Pakistani women who have experienced some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. There would also have been a 50 per cent chance that she would never report her abuse and only an estimated 0.4 per cent chance that the case would have been taken to court. Maria’s death is a gruesome reminder that violence against women in Pakistan, more often than not, comes from those with whom they share hearth and home and blood. In many cases, they are the ones whom they grow up trusting and even loving. The very ones meant to keep them from harm. It should be clear to all and sundry by now that Pakistani brothers and fathers and husbands or even mothers will not always keep their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers safe. In many cases, they are the very reason they are not safe. This is where the state comes in. Luckily enough, we have laws on the books that empower the state to stop domestic violence. Unluckily, they have not been implemented enough to stop this brutality.