Pakistan PM demands answers to why police stood by while pregnant woman was stoned

“I begged them to help us but they said, this is not our duty,” said her husband Muhammed Iqbal of police who stood by as his wife was attacked.
Pakistani human rights activists hold placards during a protest in Islamabad on May 29, 2014 against the killing of pregnant woman Farzana Parveen who was beaten to death by members of her own family for marrying a man of her own choice. Aamir Qureshi/AFP Photo
Pakistani human rights activists hold placards during a protest in Islamabad on May 29, 2014 against the killing of pregnant woman Farzana Parveen who was beaten to death by members of her own family for marrying a man of her own choice. Aamir Qureshi/AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD // Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police apparently stood by while a pregnant woman was stoned and beaten to death by her family in front of one of the country’s top courts, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Farzana Iqbal, 25, was three months pregnant when she was attacked on Tuesday for marrying the man she loved.

Her husband 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,” said her husband Muhammed Iqbal.

“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 lead to “honour killing”.

Many Pakistani families think it dishonourable for a woman to fall in love and choose her own husband.

Mr Sharif had taken notice of the “brutal killing” in the presence of police, his press office said, adding that the “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,” said Mr Sharif in the statement.

Police initially said Farzana had been stoned, but her husband said relatives had swung bricks, not thrown them.

All the suspects, except Farzana’s father who was detained, have disappeared. Police said her father, two brothers and a former fiance were among the attackers.

Her father was quoted by police as saying it had been an honour killing.

The 25-year-old had offended her family by marrying Mr Iqbal instead of a cousin selected for her.

Honour killings are common in Pakistan, but the brutality of this case sparked outrage around the world.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, Farzana’s 20-year-old stepson, described how one relative had tried to shoot her, then grabbed her head scarf, causing her to fall over.

While a member of Mr Iqbal’s party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit Farzana with it, he said.

“She was screaming and crying ‘don’t kill me, we will give you money’,” said Mr Iqbal. 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 begged police to help.

Finally she stopped screaming.

The attack happened near the gate of the heavily guarded court, where the couple was due to testify that their marriage was genuine following a false charge by Farzana’s family that she had been kidnapped.

This was not the first time her family had tried to kill Farzana, said her lawyer, Rai Ghulan Mustafa.

On May 12, seven of her relatives had tried to force their way into his office, where she was sitting, said her lawyer. His colleagues fought them off.

They later attacked her near a police station and officers intervened, held her attackers for an hour before releasing them without charge, he said.

“She was afraid of being killed,” Mr Mustafa said.

The case is the latest “honour killing” in Pakistan to outrage the world.

“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 honour 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.

Honour killings are so common they usually only get a paragraph or two.

Women 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. But the true figure is probably much higher since many cases are never reported.

* Reuters

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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