Combining fragmentary news reports, here is what I can piece together of an appalling story coming out Pakistan concerning Nazeer Ahmed (also spelled Nazir Ahmad), a 40-year-old laborer in a village called Gago Mandi, near Burewala in the east of the country.
Nazeer Ahmed was upset that his stepdaughter (the daughter of his wife and his deceased brother), Muqadas Bibi, 25, had married a man against his wishes a few weeks ago. But this week he said he had forgiven her and invited her home from her in-laws. A senior police officer, Mukhtar Iqbal Tikka, explains: "They had dinner and early in the morning when all were sleeping he cut the throats of all four." His wife, Rehmat Bibi, witnessed the massacre as she cradled their 3-month-old son. Associated Press picks up the story:
Nazeer Ahmed under arrest.
Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls - Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 - pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm. "I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters," Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. "I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, 'If you make a noise, I will kill you.""
She added, plaintively: "The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me."
The foul deed done, Ahmed went to a police station and admitted the murders. "I told the police that I am an honorable father and I slaughtered my dishonored daughter and the three other girls. I wish that I get a chance to eliminate the boy she ran away with and set his home on fire."
Comments: (1) What makes this incident so extraordinary is the apparent lack of connection to the Islamic notion of 'ird, or sexual purity; these were not what are known as honor killings. From what one can tell, the stepdaughter did not elope, much less did she engage in non-marital sex, but she properly married. Her stepfather's problem had only to do with her having married someone other than his choice. He so deeply despaired of this that he became "afraid of his daughters" and chose to murder them rather than risk others of them following her lead.
(2) Ahmed's distorted priorities obviously are his own and not those of the society around him; but they also reflect the absolute control that the traditional Muslim pater familias expects to wield over his family. (For a fictional Egyptian portrayal of this control, see my analysis of Naguib Mahfouz's Bayn al-Qasrayn at "Egyptian Family Life in 1919.") (December 25, 2005, with factual additions from subsequent days)
Dec. 28, 2005 update: Interviewed by the Associated Press,
Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn't want them to do the same when they grew up. He said he bought a butcher's knife and a machete after midday prayers on Friday and hid them in the house where he carried out the killings. "I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated," he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven. "We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor."
Ahmed also contends that Muqadas had committed adultery but the police know neither his identity nor his whereabouts and the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that local people say Muqadas fled her husband because he abused her and forced her to work in a brick-making factory.
Jan. 3, 2006 update: The Muslim Public Affairs Council weighed in on the Nazeer Ahmed case but can't figure out what it thinks of it. In one place, MPAC declares it "an aberration, reflecting the actions of a deranged, mentally unstable individual." But then it admits that "The general devaluation of female children, along with the culturally acceptable notion that women bear the burden of honor for their entire family, creates an environment where such a heinous act could occur." Precisely.