Corpse-eating case prompts Pakistan to consider law against cannibalism

This article is more than 12 months old

As fright-seekers in the United States prepare for Halloween, lawmakers in Pakistan are working to try to prevent their country from producing the world’s next real horror story.

Until now, there has been no law in Pakistan against cannibalism.

But Pakistan has documented several cases of cannibalism over the years, prompting lawmakers to introduce legislation this week to try to curb the problem.

One bill in the National Assembly clarifies that anyone who exhumes a corpse with “intent to cook, eat, sell or to use for magic purposes” will face a mandatory jail sentence of between 10 years and life behind bars.

A second bill would make eating human flesh punishable by at least seven years in jail.

Cannibal brothers

The legislation is in response to a particularly grotesque case in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province in 2011.

That year, police received a call from a man who reported that his sister’s grave had been dug up in a local cemetery.

The investigation brought police to the home of two brothers, whom they found cooking the 24-year-old cancer victim’s limbs into a stew.

The brothers were promptly arrested, and they confessed to unearthing and eating a total of five corpses from the cemetery.

But because Pakistan lacked a stringent cannibalism law, they could only be charged with disturbing a grave site, and were sentenced to two years in prison and released in 2013. 

More effective legislation

Earlier this year, however, police were called back to the brothers’ residence after neighbors reported a nasty smell.

When they arrived, police discovered the severed skull of a toddler. One of the brothers reportedly confessed to using the corpse to make curry.

The two brothers were again arrested, but this time charged under the country’s anti-terrorism statute. In June, both received 12-year prison sentences.

Nikhat Shakeel Khan, a chief sponsor of one of the bills and also a medical doctor, said the legislation would help to reduce the frequent complaints she receives about grave sites in Pakistan being raided or unearthed.

“Patients would come to me telling appalling tales of people digging graves of their loved ones and taking out different body parts for witchcraft,” Khan said.

“Most of these cannibals have mental problems, but we hope to stop them as well as those who use body parts for magic and witchcraft.”

- Washington Post