By Nick Faris
Honour killings are a murderous epidemic in Pakistan, where several hundred women are slain every year for supposedly besmirching their family’s name.
Now, a 43-year-old man has become the embodiment of a rare gender reversal, after three of his in-laws allegedly swarmed him at a public market in the northeast city of Burewala and proceeded to slit his throat.
Muhammad Irshad reportedly died in the attack last Friday, and police said they’ve launched a manhunt for his wife’s father and two of her brothers, who are said to have targeted Irshad because they objected to his marriage.
Irshad fled Burewala last year soon after marrying his wife, Mussarat Bibi, precisely because he feared bloody retribution from his in-laws, local police chief Ghazi Salahuddin told Agence France-Presse. The chief said Irshad had briefly returned to the city to visit his parents.
“The assailants were armed with knives and hatchets, and after inflicting several wounds on Irshad’s body, they slit his throat,” Salahuddin said.
Such extrajudicial attacks are unsettlingly common in Pakistan, and they almost always target women. The country’s independent human rights commission has said 1,096 women died in honour killings in 2015, compared to 88 men.
That total represents an increase from 2014, when 1,005 women were killed, and 2013, when the commission reported 869 such deaths.
“The predominant causes of these killings in 2015 were domestic disputes, alleged illicit relations and exercising the right of choice in marriage,” reads one section of the commission’s most recent annual report, adding that most of the victims were shot, while some were attacked with acid.
Irshad’s grisly death followed a slew of other reported honour killings across the country this month.
A 16-year-old girl burnt to death in Lahore two weeks ago when her mother allegedly tied her to a bed, soaked her with fuel and lit her on fire, purportedly because the girl had recently married without her family’s consent.
Days later, a Lahore man allegedly shot his 18-year-old daughter and her 35-year-old husband to death for wedding against his family’s wishes.
And last Thursday, a pregnant 22-year old woman was reportedly killed in nearby Buttaranwali by her estranged father, mother and brother, who approached her suddenly in public and tricked her into returning home with them, where they slit her throat with a knife.
Honour killings were the subject of an internationally acclaimed documentary film released this year. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won an Oscar in February for recounting the story of 18-year old Saba, a Pakistani woman who survived after her father and brother shot her in the head, bagged her limp body and threw her in a river.
“Anyone who does this must be punished and punished very severely,” Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told The Guardian on Feb. 21, the day of a screening of the film in Islamabad, the country’s capital.
“Changing the law is something that needs to be done at the earliest possibility.”