SOAS University of London

Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

Pakistan - Sohail Warraich

Sohail Warraich is from Pakistan, where he is Coordinator (Law) for Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Centre in Lahore. With extensive experience as a journalist, a field researcher and a human rights activist responsible for Amnesty International Pakistan's Human Rights Education Project, he brings to the field of law a strong interest in the inter-relationship between the principles of law and the realities of people's lives.

Sohail's paper will review case law on 'honour killings' in Pakistan, where under the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance heirs of a victim of murder are entitled to pardon the murderer. Thus, in cases where a woman is murdered by her father or brother and other family members pardon the murderer, qisas (the maximum penalty of the death sentence as 'talion') cannot be imposed, nor can a death sentence be given under the tazir criminal laws. The legal penalty is diyat (financial compensation) and the court is also empowered to impose a prison sentence of up to fourteen years; in practice, a prison sentence is rarely given in cases of 'honour killings'.

Sohail has been working around these issues for many years with other activists and lawyers in Pakistan, and his paper will reflect, through an in-depth analysis of case law, criticisms made of the legal system and the judiciary in the failure to extend the protection of the law to women in these circumstances.

In particular, Sohail's paper addresses the following points:

  • A brief comparative review of Muslim criminal law as applied in pre-colonial India, under colonial rule and in the post colonial period;
  • A comparison of the principles of Islamic law and common law in Pakistan relating to the defence of provocation and of self defence;
  • An examination of the implications of the fact that the procedural law governing application of the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance is based on statutory/common law, while the Ordinance itself is drawn from Islamic law; this will include a consideration of the admissibility of circumstantial evidence, particularly in crimes of hadd and qisas, and an evaluation of any gendered approach to circumstantial evidence depending on the gender of a murder victim;
  • An examination of the extent to which members of the judiciary, in applying the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance, seek guidance from their interpretation of texts from the Quran and Sunnah, over-riding clear statutory provisions of the law itself;
  • A case-law based analysis of whose life is considered under the Qisas and diyat Ordinance to be 'non-sacred' (or not fully protected), and who can therefore take that life.

Sohail's paper has been presented at the International Meeting in February 2002, and will be included in the subsequent publication (for abstract see Publication).