Police officials said the woman’s husband, Muhammad Ajmal, had returned from Saudi Arabia — where he was working as a tailor — to carry out the violent crime after seeing a photo of his wife, Kiran, with another man and suspecting an affair.
Hundreds of women like Kiran are believed to be victims of honor killings every year. These murders are a form of gender-based violence and typically occur in communities and cultures where women are seen as a form of property whose value lies in their virginity or sexual modesty.
“This is clearly an honor killing. He saw a picture of his wife with another man and believed she was having an affair,” Imran Mehmood, a district police officer in the city of Multan, where the murders took place, told Reuters.
“He does not repent his actions,” he added.
Honor killings have been carried out around the world against women and girls who chose their own partner for marriage, engaged in pre- or extra-marital sex, or expressed their sexuality and brought perceived “shame” upon their families.
Ajmal has confessed to shooting the family members and setting fire to their home, according to police. He and his father — who was with him at the time of the crime — are currently in police custody and have been charged with murder. Police continue to look for Ajmal’s brother, who they also believe was involved in the attack.
Kiran had been living in Saudi Arabia with her husband, but returned to Pakistan to live with her family, following marital problems, her brother, Ali Raza, told Reuters.
Kiran’s three sisters and mother were among the victims of the brutal crime; Raza and his father are Kiran’s only surviving family members.
Despite the passing of stricter anti-honor killing legislation in 2016, activists estimate that 1,000 people are victims of honor killings in Pakistan every year. However, honor killings are often recorded as different crimes, covered up, or not reported at all, so the true number of victims is likely much higher.
While Pakistan criminalized these kinds of crimes — which perpetrators allege are necessary to restore a family’s “honor” — in 2004, a legal loophole allowed perpetrators of honor crimes to be pardoned by the victim’s family. Because honor killings are frequently carried out by the family members of the intended victim, it was often the case that perpetrators were forgiven and walked free.
In 2016, Pakistan adopted stricter legislation that helped to close these legal loopholes, but the country has yet to see a single conviction for an honor killing.
Still, activists remain hopeful that progress is being made in the fight against honor killings in Pakistan and around the world.