“It’s not a crime to marry the person we want to. But back home, our elders think women are their property. We can’t do things we want to do.”
KARACHI: Back home, Z and N saw their siblings dragged outside, shot in broad daylight, and buried at night without a funeral””so that their family could continue to live with “˜honour” in the village and amid the clan.
Now in Karachi, the couple hides in a one-room house in a wholly unfamiliar neighbourhood. They fear a similar fate.
“My family declared us karo kari just because I married of my own choice,” said 23-year-old Z, bursting into tears. “We have come to Karachi for protection.”
Couples who choose to marry of their own free will and in return are declared untouchables for “˜defaming” the family name, are leaving their hometowns in rural Sindh to seek refuge in the metropolis. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan states that during the last two months, around five married couples have fled to Karachi from Jacobabad, Larkana and Sukkur. Z who hails from Naudero, and her husband from Shikarpur, are the fifth couple, who came here earlier this month.
Their tale is not a typical love story. They did not fall in love in lush green fields but met only at family gatherings and talked occasionally on the phone. However, the decision to spend their lives together came abruptly when Z”s father decided to marry her to a 60-year-old man in exchange for a hefty amount.
On the night of January 12, Z escaped from home, boarded a bus and got married to N in Sukkur the next morning. “We sent our marriage certificate to our families hoping that they would be happy for us,” N says. “While my family reluctantly accepted, Z”s family called a jirga and declared us karo kari.” They wanted them to be brought back and killed.
Years ago, Z”s pregnant sister met a similar fate after she overslept on her train and missed her stop. The family accused her of running away from home with a lover. On the other hand, N”s brother, who was in the army, was killed only because he liked a girl from another clan.
Thus, for Z and N, the only choice they had was to come to Karachi, and file a petition in the Sindh High Court, seeking protection. But the danger is not over. They do not go outside as the people hunting for them have reached the city.
“It’s not a crime to marry the person we want to. But back home, our elders think women are their property. We can’t do things we want to do. At least in the city, we can breathe freely,” said Z from behind her burqa, perhaps the thinnest protection she has for now.
Taranum Khan of the HRCP says that almost all of such killings, which took place in the city last year, were of couples who had fled their villages. “If people think that they can be safe in Karachi, they are wrong. Their families hunt them down here and kill them,” she said.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in 2011, around eight men and five women were killed in Karachi for these very reasons. In Sindh, 227 people, 136 women, 125 men, and 13 children faced this rough form of tribal justice….