WASHINGTON: On Tuesday, Farzana Iqbal, a 25-year-old pregnant woman, was confronted by a mob of 20 or so of her family members near the steps of the top court in Lahore, Pakistan's second-biggest city.
They proceeded to beat her to death with sticks and bricks, while police nearby looked on and did little.
The reason for the attack? She had chosen to marry a 45-year-old man named Muhammad Iqbal. That was a union deemed unacceptable by her family, which had filed an abduction case against the husband. She was about to deliver a statement in his defense. Photos taken after the attack show her lifeless body shrouded in colored fabrics, crumpled on the pavement. They also show the haunted stare of her husband.
Now, the media furor after the incident has turned up a new, stomach-turning wrinkle in the case: Police say the husband killed his first wife before marrying Farzana. After police sources in Lahore leaked unseemly details about his past to local media, Muhammad Iqbal himself confirmed to Agence France-Presse over the phone that he had strangled his first wife.
"I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love," he said before hanging up. The forgiveness of his son and Pakistan's controversial blood-money laws apparently allowed him to escape a jail sentence.
Last year alone, Pakistan's Human Rights Commission reported 869 "honour killings" — a misnomer of the highest order, describing incidents in which family members take it upon themselves to punish daughters who refuse arranged marriages or choose to follow their heart rather than family diktat. The real number, though, is probably much higher.
"I do not even wish to use the phrase 'honour killing,'" said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in Geneva. "There is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way." (Another news report now suggests that a sister of Farzana was poisoned to death four years ago in a similar episode.)
On Thursday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued an angry statement on her "brutal killing," deeming it "totally unacceptable." He ordered the office of the chief minister of Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, to deliver a report on the case. The chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, happens to be the prime minister's brother.