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      /  Culture   /  The Adulterer

    The Adulterer

    Written by Hakim Baloch
    English Translation by Fazal Baloch

    The tribal council sent a detailed report on all aspects of the case and concluded that Dawlat Khan found his brother’s wife sleeping with a stranger and murdered them both on the spot.

    Two years ago Sahti was married to Dawlat Khan’s younger brother Mohabbat Khan. Six months after the wedding, the young husband got a job in Dubai. A year and half later he was granted leave. He sent word home that he would arrive on two months’ leave on the 15th of the coming month. 

    Four days before his arrival, his elder brother Dawlat Khan found Sahti in a compromising situation with a man and killed them both. It was evident from the investigation report that the murderer’s sense of honour was aroused, and that he therefore killed his sister-in-law and her suitor right there and then. The tribal council unanimously ruled it to be a legally justified act of honour killing and accused both the man and the woman of adultery. In his verdict the deputy commissioner recommended that the honour killing should not be regarded as a common act of murder, and that Dawlat Khan should not be sent to jail.

    I studied the report thoroughly and then scrutinized it again in detail. One witness maintained in his account that on the evening in question the woman’s suitor came to their hamlet to buy fodder for his camel. He said he had a long way to go to reach his destination. He feared that he might not be able to get fodder down the road ahead. Dawlat Khan sold him some fodder. 

    The traveller loaded the fodder onto his camel and was about to depart when Dawlat Khan urged him to stay with them, as the new moon gave no light, and clouds also covered the sky. “Stay with us for the night and resume your journey at daybreak tomorrow.” But the young man politely turned down his request and got up to leave. Dawlat again asked him to stay. “Don’t be shy. You might lose your way in the dark or become the prey of wild animals.” Then the young traveller agreed to stay the night. “After having dinner together, we all retired to our houses,” the witness said. “In the morning we found out that the guest had ‘blackened his hands and face’ by sleeping with Dawlat Khan’s young sister-in-law.” 

    I didn’t believe that a woman could form a secret liaison with a stranger and sleep with someone who was just staying for a short while. I summoned the accused and the witness again. When I asked the accused about the crime he replied: “Sir, from the day my brother went abroad, my sister-in-law was involved in illicit relationships. Womenfolk in the village often whispered, asking each other why Sahti’s belly was bulging out. One said that her husband’s extra wealth was causing more flesh to grow on her body. Another said that she was chewing all day long, like an animal being fattened, and if she gains some weight, is that any surprise? But we never thought she was disgracing her honour and smearing soot on the dignity of the family. Had I not seen her with the young man that night, and my brother had found her pregnant, what would he have thought? 

    In the report neither the witnesses, nor the accused, nor the members of the tribal council had mentioned anything about Sahti being pregnant. It was a new and important factor for me and the council, and added a new dimension to the murder. The accused himself was asking what his brother would have thought if he had seen his wife pregnant. 

    I said: “You are right. A beautiful woman and a camel with udders full of milk, neither should be left in another’s care.” Dawlat’s father, who was the primary witness and advocate of his son’s honour, said without having been asked: “Sir my daughter-in-law was an immoral woman. God knows how long and with whom she had been blackening her honour. Had we not caught her with the camel-driver that night, she would have presented her illegitimate child to my innocent son when he arrived. The midwives told us the child was almost ready to be delivered. If the mother had not been murdered, the child would have come into the world in a few days. How fortunate that we’ve been spared from having to murder an innocent.” 

    I wondered how a pregnant woman who was about to give birth would form an illegitimate alliance with a stranger who was only staying over for the night. At such a time she would even refuse to sleep with her 45 husband – why on earth would she copulate with a shepherd? I didn’t believe that the guest of one night who vanished into the darkness was behind Sahti’s murder. I therefore forwarded the case to the crime branch to be re-investigated. 

    I now have two reports before me. One is the report based on the reinvestigation of the case made by the crime branch and the other one is an ordinary crime report. Both have reached the same conclusion. After a thorough and detailed re-investigation, the first report finds that Dawlat Khan, in his brother’s absence, made illicit advances on his brother’s young and beautiful wife, and in the end got her pregnant. 

    When they got the news that Mohabbat Khan was due to arrive in a few days, it sent ripples of dread through him. He feared that when Mohabbat Khan found his wife pregnant, he would ask her what had happened and she would give him all the details. It wouldn’t bode well for him. Thus to hide his illegitimate affair, he falsely accused the innocent camel-driver of adultery. He sacrificed the traveller, the daughter-inlaw and the child in her womb to make atonement for his heinous act, if at all possible, with their blood. 

    The second report informs us that Mohabbat Khan murdered his brother Dawlat Khan because he came to know beyond a doubt that during his absence Dawlat Khan had engaged in adultery with his young wife.

    Originally Published: Baloch, Hakim (2000)

    Courtesy: Unheard Voices