The Human Rights Actions Network


Pakistan: Woman killed for trying to divorce her husband

                       VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
                        Case PAK 120499.VAW
At the request of an international coalition of women's organisations, the 
International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention 
in the following situation in Pakistan.

Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned over the 
killing of Ms. Saima Sarwar, a 29 year old woman, mother of two boys, 
by a gunman hired by her family. She was killed on 6 April 1999 in the 
offices her attorneysAsma Jahangir, United Nations Special 
Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions and her 
sister Ms. Hina Jilani, a human rights advocate, in Lahore, Pakistan. 

According to the information, Ms. Saima Sarwar, who lived in Peshawar 
with her parents for four years after leaving her husband, fled to Lahore 
after her family threatened to kill her if she tried to divorce her husband. 
She was given shelter at Dastak, a organisation run by the legal aid team 
headed by Ms. Hina Jillani and Ms. Asma Jahangir. Ms. Hina Jilani was 
representing Ms. Saima Sarwar in her divorce procedure. 

Following her escape, Ms. Saima Sarwar's family said they were prepared 
to accept her divorce and she agreed to meet her mother (but no other 
members of the family) in Ms Jilani's office so that they could give her 
the appropriate papers. Her mother did not come alone as agreed, and 
before the meeting began, the killer - a driver in the government 
Education Directorate in Peshawar - drew out a pistol and shot Ms. 
Saima Sarwar through the head. She died instantly. A shot fired at Ms. 
Hina Jilani missed. The killer was shot dead by a security guard.

This murder is another in a series of so-called "honour killings" - killing 
by family members to protect the "honour" of the family. Instead of 
protecting the women, in many cases the police and the judiciary side 
with the family and the killings often go unpunished. In addition, the 
family of Saima Sarwar are apparently closely connected to the 
government and the International Secretariat has serious grounds for 
concern that these links may prejudice the investigation and prosecution 
of those involved.

The International Secretariat has to further express its grave concern 
over death threats made to Ms. Asma Jahangir. Members of the 
Peshawar Chamber of Commerce in Pakistan and a section of religious 
groups have demanded that she be arrested and hanged, claiming that 
Ms. Asma Jahangir "takes the small problems of Pakistan to international 
forums and creates a bad name for Pakistan." Furthermore, they also 
argue that she encourages women and girls to rebel against their families. 
These groups have warned that if the government of Pakistan does not 
take action, they will kill her themselves. Moreover, it is alleged that they 
have announced a monetary reward for anyone taking her life.

Ms. Asma Jahangir is currently attending the United Nations 
Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where she presented her first 
report as UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary 
Executions. OMCT is gravely concerned about the safety of Ms. Asma 
Jahangir at her return in Pakistan.

Action requested
Please write to the authorities of Pakistan urging them to

i.  guarantee the security and the physical and psychological 
    integrity of Ms. Asma Jahangir and Ms. Hina Jilani

ii. guarantee an impartial and exhaustive inquiry into the murder of 
    Ms. Saima Sarwar, bring those responsible before a competent 
    and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or 
    administrative sanctions provided by law;

  iii.publicly condemn such "honour killings", and all other forms of 
    violence against women and ensure all human rights of women as 
    guaranteed in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of 
    Discrimination Against Women, the Declaration on the 
    Elimination of Violence Against Women and other human rights 

  iv. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and 
    fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and 
    international human rights standards.

President Rafiq Tarar, Office of the President, Islamabad, Pakistan. Fax + 
92 51 920 40 67/921 10 18

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Office of the Prime Minister, Islamabad, 
Fax + 92 51 920 88 90/920 15 45

Pakistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Fax 0041 
22 734 80 85

The Embassy of Pakistan in your respective countries.

Geneva,12 April 1999

The Human Rights Actions Network

Human Rights in Pakistan

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The Human Rights Action Network, a part of Derechos Human Rights, distributes appeals on behalf of victims of human rights violations. You are invited to join the network. Please check the date of the present action and do not write if it's over a month old.