Husband of Pakistan woman stoned to death demands justice

Mohammad Iqbal sits next to his wife Farzana's body, who was killed by family members, in an ambulance outside of a morgue in Lahore on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Mohammad Iqbal sits next to his wife Farzana's body, who was killed by family members, in an ambulance outside of a morgue in Lahore on May 27, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE (AFP) - The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was beaten to death outside Lahore's High Court for marrying against her family's wishes has vowed to fight for justice.

Ms Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked outside Lahore's grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers including her brother and father, who has been arrested, police said.

Three-months pregnant Parveen, whom police earlier identified as 'Farzana Iqbal', had gone to testify in defence of her husband Muhammad Iqbal - who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into the marriage.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home village of Jaranwala where he had gone to bury Parveen earlier that day, Mr Iqbal said: "We demand justice. We were being threatened since we got married."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also strongly condemned the killing, urging the Pakistani government to take "urgent and strong measures" to put an end to so-called honour killings in the country.

Mr Iqbal, 45, said he and his wife had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 12.

"On Tuesday as we were going to court from our lawyer's office almost 30 people attacked us, including her father, brothers and cousins," he said.

The group of 10 or so people accompanying him were overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack and fled in all directions, he said.

"One of her brothers shot at her but missed, then the women in their group fell upon her and her brother and father finished her off," said Mr Iqbal.

"The most painful thing is that nobody came forward to save my wife, the police were there and hundreds of lawyers were there along with ordinary men, but they all just watched like spectators."

Police officer Mushtaq Muhammed said Ms Parveen's father Muhammad Azeem had been detained while five others - two brothers and three cousins - remained at large.

Another police officer, Rana Akhtar, told AFP police were launching raids in the Nankana Sahib district of Punjab province to arrest the accused.


Despite the gruesome and public nature of the killing in Pakistan's most liberal city, media reaction has been relatively muted - indicating what activists said was a growing apathy within society amid rising extremism.

"The court's regular resident police force was mysteriously absent from the scene, unable to take preventive action - or to provide protection or pre-emption to this and countless other foregone and foretold dis-honour killing cases," said Tahira Abdullah, a prominent women's rights campaigner.

Feminist Samina Rehman added: "The incident occurred in front of hundreds of people but nobody stepped forward to save them because people are afraid of mob justice.

"People don't speak up because they fear that they would either be framed for blasphemy or declared un-Islamic."

Last year 869 women died in so-called "honour killings" according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Conviction rates are very low due to Pakistan's blood-money laws which allow kin to forgive perpetrators, usually family members in such cases.

In a statement, the rights commission said Ms Parveen's father had shown no remorse when he surrendered to the police, adding: "Such brazen actions have been encouraged by the authorities' failure to fulfil their duty to protect citizens' lives."

Mr Iqbal, however, was undeterred.

"There are no hurdles. Each and every single individual has been named and everybody saw them so there should not be any delay in bringing the perpetrators to justice," he said.