SRINAGAR: A Pakistani woman Farzana Iqbal was stoned to death by her relatives outside a court in Lahore, in Pakistan’s Punjab province, for marrying the man of her choice. Husband of the pregnant woman has alleged that the policemen deployed outside court did not act while the enraged relatives battered to death the 25-year-old pregnant woman.
While the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif pulled up Punjab government and sought report, the incident attracted global outrage against the growing menace of ‘honor killings’ in most of Pakistan. Media estimates suggest at least 1000 women are done to death annually for bringing dishonor to the family.
Farzana’s husband, Muhammed Iqbal, said that police did nothing during the 15 minutes the violence lasted outside Lahore High Court.
“I begged them to help us but they said, this is not our duty,” Mr Iqbal told the reporters. “I took off my shirt (to be humble) and begged them to save her.”
In parts of Pakistan, a largely Muslim nation of 180 million people, women are expected to agree to arranged marriages and refusal can result in an “honor killing”, the Reuters reported on Thursday. .
Many Pakistani families think it dishonorable for a woman to choose her own husband.
Nawaz Sharif had taken notice of the “brutal killing” in the presence of police, his press office said in a statement, adding that a “totally unacceptable” crime had to be dealt with promptly by law.
“I am directing the chief minister to take immediate action and a report must be submitted by this evening to my office,” the statement said, quoting Mr Sharif.
Police initially said Farzana Iqbal had been stoned, but her husband said that relatives had swung bricks, not thrown them.
All the suspects, except the father, who has been detained, have disappeared.
A police officer on Tuesday quoted the father as saying it had been an honor killing. The 25-year-old had offended her family by marrying Mr Iqbal instead of a cousin selected for her. Honor killings are common in Pakistan, but the brutality of this case caused outrage around the world.
Police said her father, two brothers and a former fiance were among the attackers. Muhammad Aurangzeb, Farzana’s 20-year-old stepson, described how one relative had tried to shoot her, then grabbed her headscarf, causing her to fall over. While a member of Farzana’s party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit her with it, he said.
“She was screaming and crying ‘don’t kill me, we will give you money’,” her husband was quoted as said.He said he tried to save her but the mob of more than 20 beat him back. At one point, six people were beating her with bricks as she screamed, he said, and he and his stepson begged police to help.
The attack happened near the gate of the heavily guarded court, the two men said, on one of the busiest roads in Lahore. The couple had been due to testify there that their marriage was genuine in response to a false charge of kidnapping brought by Farzana Iqbal’s family.
It was not the first time her family had tried to kill the woman, said her lawyer, Rai Ghulan Mustafa.
GLOBAL OUTRAGE, LOCAL SILENCE
On May 12, seven of her relatives had tried to force their way into his office, where she was sitting, he said, but his colleagues had fought them off. Later they attacked her near a police station. Officers intervened and held the attackers for an hour before releasing them without charge, he said. “She was afraid of being killed,” her lawyer said.
The case is the latest honor killing in Pakistan that has caused international outrage. “I do not even wish to use the phrase honour killing,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a statement in Geneva.
“There is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way.” But for two days, the attack met with silence from Pakistani officials. Most national media outlets gave little attention to the story. Various western newspapers reported on Thursday, “Women (in Pakistan) have been mutilated and killed for wearing jeans, looking out of windows, singing or giving birth to girls.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said there were 869 such attacks reported in the media last year – several a day.
But the true figure is probably much higher since many cases are never reported.
An editorial in the Pakistan’s national daily, the Express Tribune, denounced the killing and noted a case in New York where a 75-year-old Pakistani immigrant beat his wife to death this month for serving him a vegetarian meal.
“The great tragedy for the nation, alongside the murder of yet another Pakistani woman, is that the man’s lawyer claimed the man acted on his cultural upbringing where beating women is customary,” the writer said.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a senior minister of state in the British government and of Pakistani origin, said she was appalled by the killing.
“Perpetrators must be brought to justice,” she said in a tweet.
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