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Pakistan to pass law against honour killings in weeks

Pakistan’s ruling party plans to pass long-delayed legislation against “honour killings” within weeks in the wake of the high-profile murder of an outspoken social media star, the daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Wednesday.

The bill will go before a parliamentary committee as early as Thursday, said Maryam Nawaz Sharif, who is an increasingly influential member of her father’s ruling party. The government has faced mounting pressure to pass the law against murders carried out by people professing to be acting in defence of the honour of their family.

The law would remove a loophole that allows other family members to pardon a killer. The brother of social media star Qandeel Baloch, often described as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian, has been arrested in connection with her strangling death and told a news conference he was incensed by her often risque posts on social media.

Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan at the hands of family members over perceived damage to “honour” that can involve eloping, fraternising with men or any other infraction against conservative values that govern women’s modesty.

Maryam Nawaz Sharif said the government wanted to pass the law unanimously and had been negotiating with religious parties in parliament. “We have finalised the draft law in the light of negotiations,” she told Reuters in an interview. “The final draft will be presented to a committee of joint session of parliament on July 21 for consideration and approval.”

Maryam said once the parliamentary committee approved the bill, it would be presented for a vote in a “couple of weeks” before a joint session of parliament.

A spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the two major religious parties in parliament, said his party would not oppose the bill. Pakistan’s other main religious political party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, could not be reached for comment but it has only a small number of seats in parliament. Both religious parties have traditionally opposed legislation empowering women.

The upper house of parliament passed the bill in 2014 but it lapsed after the government failed to put it up for a vote in the lower house because it was preoccupied with legislation aimed at tackling security problems and economic reforms.

A senior government official told Reuters all major parties were now backing the bill and it was likely to be passed in a few weeks by a joint session of parliament.
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