How a tenet of Islamic law could save the life of American crime victim
By Alex Rodriguez
'Blood money' tradition might help resolve U.S.-Pakistani row
ATTOKI, Pakistan (MCT)
But last month Ahmed won his freedom; not because his confession was recanted or fresh evidence was presented, but because of a wad of cash. He paid the victim's family
"We're not bitter about this at all," said
What outsiders might describe as "blood money" is a tenet of Islamic law sanctioned by Pakistani jurisprudence and used, by some estimates, in up to 60 percent of homicide cases here. The practice is called diyat, and it could be the means by which
Davis says he was the victim of a robbery attempt and shot the men after one of them pulled out a pistol. Authorities in
Despite whirlwind meetings between Pakistani leaders and top U.S. diplomats and lawmakers, the Obama administration has been unable to convince
President Asif Ali Zardari's government balked at confirming Davis has immunity and instead put the question of his status in the hands of the Lahore High Court, which on Monday declined to rule on whether Davis has diplomatic immunity, saying it was up to the court hearing the criminal case to decide. The trial court is due to convene Wednesday.
Zardari's weak government, struggling to survive in the face of economic turmoil, waning support from political allies and a resilient homegrown insurgency, fears a backlash from the country's intensely anti-American population if Davis is freed.
Relying on diyat could provide a face-saving way out for both countries, legal experts say. The U.S. would secure Davis' release, and Zardari's government would be able to explain to Pakistanis that the resolution occurred within the bounds of Pakistani law.
For diyat to work, the families of the two men Davis killed,
"Some relatives suggest we should accept the offer so that the issue is resolved," he said. "But 70 percent of the family says he should be convicted."
Human rights advocates view diyat as a flawed, easily exploitable custom that could allow the rich and powerful to kill with impunity and then escape justice by reaching into deep pockets.
"There's a perverse incentive to murder. ... You can pay your way out of it," said
The law is commonly employed in cases of so-called honor killings, in which men kill a female relative, saying they are avenging shame she brought upon their family. The woman may be a rape victim, have married a man of her own choosing or divorced an abusive husband.
Many families coping with such a killing rely on diyat to resolve the case because the killer represents his household's primary means of income, Hasan said. The family forgives the relative responsible for the killing, though often any money payment is moot because the killer lives in the same household.
"If you are poor and you're losing the family's breadwinner," Hasan said, "you are making a cynical calculation that the other person is dead," and through diyat you can "keep the family together."
"Money cannot compensate for loss of a human being," Ahmad said. "But diyat works as token money so as to declare that the loss of life is not without any consequences.
"Money may not compensate that loss, but it does show that human life has some value."
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Comment by clicking here. © 2011, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
© 2011, Los Angeles Times Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.