On Oct. 6, Pakistan’s National Assembly finally passed into law amendments to its anti-honor killing bill. The amended text aims to close a loophole that allowed judges to dole out light sentences for murderers if the victims’ families forgave them. The new legislation mandates life imprisonment for all murderers found guilty of “honor” crimes—regardless of whether they have been forgiven under Pakistan’s controversial qisas and diyat laws. The same day, Parliament also passed a bill increasing punishments for some rape offenses. While there has been near unanimous praise for the passage of the bills—minus the Islamist parties that opted to abstain from voting—critics argue that judges still retain discretion over determining whether a crime was “honor”-driven, leaving room for abuse. The amended law is not perfect; few laws are. But it is a step in the right direction. By allowing forgiveness under the qisas and diyat laws, but still requiring imprisonment, the PMLN has avoided protests from Islamists and enacted actual change. Regardless of your political affiliations, that’s a ‘coup’ worth celebrating.
From our Oct. 8-22, 2016, issue.