Judicial Patronage of ‘Honor Killings' in Pakistan: The Supreme Court's Persistent Adherence to the Doctrine of Grave and Sudden Provocation
Author(s): Moeen Cheema
Pakistan has earned considerable notoriety on the international stage because of its failure to curb violent crimes against women committed in the name of honor. Academic analyses of the state's failure to deter honor killings focus primarily on lacunae in statutory law (especially the Islamized provisions introduced by legislation), while assigning secondary blame to gaps in the criminal justice system, failings of the policing system, and the inherent defects in the workings of the informal tribal or community-based adjudicatory mechanisms. However, most of these studies fail to dissect the perplexing array of Pakistan's laws, especially the different punishment regimes and rules concerning pardon that apply to various categories of murder. As such, these studies miss the mark since the main culprit is neither the substantive legal provisions nor the frequently demonized Islamic law provisions, but rather, the superior judiciary of Pakistan which has historically patronized honor killing by consistently exercising all available discretion in sentencing to the benefit of those accused of such crimes. It is, therefore, important to appreciate the history of the judicial approach towards sentencing and the allegiance to the exculpatory doctrine of grave and sudden provocation in Pakistan, lately in the face of statutory intervention as well as Islamic law doctrines.