It was around 2:30am on June 28 when the body of a young woman lying in a pool of blood was discovered on the Indus Highway in Jamshoro, Sindh.
The motorway police, which made the discovery, informed the local authorities after which the then-unidentified body was shifted to a hospital in Sehwan.
Heirs identified her as 25-year-old Waziran Chhachhar, a resident of Wadda Chhachhar village of Jamshoro. Following the incident, the deceased’s father, Gul Mohammad, registered a murder case against his son-in-law Ali Bux and his brother Karim Bux, along with their associate Ghulam Qadir. Mohammad informed the police that Waziran was married to Ali under the local practice of watta satta. As per the arrangement, Ali’s niece was then to marry Waziran’s brother, Javed, but Ali backed out and threatened to kill Waziran if his father insisted on honouring the agreement to the full. Mohammad claimed that Ali hit his daughter with a blunt instrument such as a rock and then dumped her body on the highway to make it look like a road accident. He claimed that his son, Wahid Dino, had witnessed the murder.
Jamshoro police’s initial findings revealed she had been hit by a vehicle on the Indus Highway. “It was in fact a suicide. She had been facing severe mental stress with regards to her husband’s family,” claimed a police official close to the investigation.
The investigation of the case is being headed by Sujawal SP Suhai Aziz Talpur. Police have sought exhumation of the body, along with a DNA test of the fetus as the deceased was six weeks pregnant. A medical board is to be formed for the purpose by the Sindh director general health services.
Increased awareness about women’s rights
The entire case, especially the police’s alleged angle in ascertaining the father of the unborn child, has led to an outcry among women’s rights activists, especially the leadership of the Hyderabad-based Women Action Forum (WAF), which fears it is an attempt to malign the character of the deceased.
However, until the police exhume the body and the inquiry is completed, Waziran’s death is to remain shrouded in mystery. And it is not her death alone that is mysterious. Similar cases of honour killing are splattered across Sindh.
WAF’s Amar Sindhu pointed out that after this year’s International Women’s Day march in Sukkur, they started receiving complaints about excesses against women and also observed that police cases are being registered in instances where women have died under suspicious circumstances. “This perhaps indicates an increased awakening about women’s rights in Sindh,” she explained, sharing that they have recorded 30 honour killing and 29 murder cases since March-April of this year until the end of July.
However, the low convictions of accused in such cases disappoint Sindhu.
Successful convictions not only rest on solid investigations but a strong coordination between the investigating officer and the prosecution — a hitherto absent feature.
Iqbal Detho, who has recently been appointed Sindh’s member of the National Commission on Rights of Child, emphasised that strong investigations are key to seeking convictions of accused, and regretted the lack of liaison between the prosecutors and the police.
Detho informed that through a recent amendment in Section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code, courts are now even empowered to award sentences of up to 14 years even if both parties reach an out-of-court settlement — a frequent occurrence.
“However, despite multiple pro-women laws in Sindh, cases relating to their murders, especially honour killings, have not seen a significant improvement,” he regretted.