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Musharraf Condemns 'Honor' Killings - 2004-02-10

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has harshly condemned the practice of killing women in the name of family honor. Mr. Musharraf is also calling on lawmakers and the courts to revamp Islamic laws, which discriminate against women.

President Pervez Musharraf Tuesday denounced that so-called honor killings still occur, despite laws outlawing the traditional practice.

Speaking to a regional conference on the rights of rural women, he said attitudes need to be changed. "The people who are in positions of authority to deal with such cases have a negative mindset," he said. "So I would like to urge these people [to] urge the population of Pakistan to try these cases, appear as witnesses; to show that we are a tolerant, progressive, educated society and we do not tolerate honor killing."

Honor killing is dominant in rural, deeply conservative parts of Pakistan. Hundreds of women a year are killed by male relatives for shaming the family - most often for choosing their own husbands or allegedly indulging in adultery.

In most of cases, police fail to arrest suspects or the culprits escape punishment because of flaws in Pakistan's judicial system.

President Musharraf urged Pakistani men to stand up against the social evil of killing women. "We must deal with any culprits of honor killing most harshly with all the force available to the government," he said. "Unfortunately, it is not one man's job. It is an attitudinal problem of the whole population of Pakistan, and I would like to urge men of Pakistan to show chivalry."

President Musharraf is also calling for a review of the controversial Hadood Ordinance. It is a series of laws based on Islamic teaching introduced in 1979 by then military dictator Zia ul-Haq.

Local and international human rights groups criticize the ordinance for such things as requiring at least two male Muslim witnesses in order to prove a case of rape. Failing to produce such witnesses, rape victims could be liable to prosecution as adulterers.

President Musharraf, who is considered an Islamic moderate, says opening debate on the issue is not an insult to Muslim values. "Why should we shy away from even discussing it? Why is it such a taboo that we cannot discuss it?" he asked. "This should not be a taboo. Certainly I would like to urge everyone in Pakistan, the legislative bodies to take up this case, and the men should be bold enough to discuss this issue."

Powerful religious groups continue to oppose amending or repealing the Hadood Ordinance.

Despite the pressure, an official commission last month formally recommended the Hadood Ordinance be rolled back because it threatens rights of women in the country.