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Pakistan PM condemns stoning and beating to death of pregnant woman

Publication Date: 
June 4, 2014

Nawaz Sharif says killing which apparently took place in police's presence was 'totally unacceptable' and demands action

Pakistan's 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.

Farzana Parveen, 25, was attacked on Tuesday, police said, because she had married the man she loved.

Sharif had taken notice of the "brutal killing" in the presence of police, his press office said, 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," it said, quoting Sharif.

Parveen's husband, Muhammad Iqbal, said 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," he told Reuters. "I took off my shirt [to be humble] and begged them to save her."

In parts of Pakistan, a largely Muslim country of 180 million people, women are expected to agree to arranged marriages and refusal can mean an "honour killing" .

But the Lahore police chief, Shafiq Ahmad, said no police officers had been present. "They arrested the father, the main accused, a few moments after the incident," he said.

"By the time police reached the scene, the lady had been murdered."

Police initially said Parveen had been stoned, but Iqbal told Reuters 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 "honour killing".

Parveen, 25, had offended her family by marrying Iqbal instead of a cousin selected for her.

The brutality of the case has caused outrage around the world, although in Pakistan reaction was more muted.

In the capital Islamabad, about 40 activists protested, shouting: "Hang the killers of Farzana," and "We don't accept this injustice." 

"Violence against women is on the rise. Women are being killed in the name of honour," said Farzana Bari, an activist. "The criminal justice system doesn't work. This particular incident was very brutal. Police were there and the poor woman was killed."

In Lahore, police said Parveen's father, two brothers and a former fiance were among the attackers.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, Parveen'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 Iqbal's party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit Parveen with it, he said.

"She was screaming and crying, 'Don't kill me, we will give you money,'" said Iqbal. He said he tried to save her but the mob of more than 20 beat him back.

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 morning that their marriage was genuine in response to a false charge of kidnapping brought by Parveen's family.

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

On 12 May, 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.

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