Hours after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered immediate action on this week’s grisly murder of a 25-year-old woman in front of a Lahore courthouse, Punjab police scotched reports that law enforcers were present at the scene of the crime.
An initial investigation report filed to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif states that the scene of the crime was not in front of the court but “several hundred feet away from the LHC doors” where “there is no police deployment”.
Farzana Iqbal was allegedly killed by her family for marrying the man she loved. However, on Thursday, Farzana’s husband Muhammad Iqbal, 45, told The Express Tribune that he had strangled his first wife to death. Police have corroborated the claim.
Iqbal was arrested for the crime but was soon freed after he paid an unknown sum of ‘blood money’ to his son, a police official said.
Earlier, Iqbal had made statements criticising the police force, saying officials acted as ‘silent spectators’ and did not save his wife as the attack took place. Iqbal claimed that he has made several appeals to the provincial and federal authorities to take notice of the case and hundreds of spectators watched the attack outside the LHC “as though it was a film or a drama”.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took notice of the murder and directed the Punjab chief minister to submit an immediate report into the incident. “This crime is totally unacceptable and must be dealt with in accordance with the law,” a statement from the PM’s office stated.
The chief minister ordered the Punjab police inspector to register a case under anti-terrorism laws.
Earlier identified as ‘Farzana’, the woman was later named ‘Parveen’ in the report police submitted on Thursday evening. Initial reports stated that she had been killed by her father, brothers and ex-fiance as she married a man of her choice. She was present at the LHC to record a statement in favour of her husband, accused of kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage.
The police report described Iqbal as a ‘proclaimed offender’ and the killer of his first wife. The attack, the report says, “was not a one sided affair” and involved both families. Additionally, Farzana was likely killed ‘in the heat of the moment by her brothers’ and ‘there was no stoning to death as has been misreported in the media’.
DIG Hameed said that according to an initial investigation, a member of Farzana’s family approached her outside the LHC and tried to shoot her; a gunshot was fired and Farzana was injured in the shin. However, the pistol was snatched by a police inspector present at the scene of the crime. A scuffle subsequently broke out, Hameed said, between nearly 20 men from Farzana’s family and 10 to 15 of Iqbal’s relatives. Farzana’s brother picked up a brick from the roadside, hitting her three times on the head. Sharing details from the autopsy report, DIG Hameed said, “The story that the girl was stoned to death by her relatives is incorrect. She was hit three times and the strikes proved to be fatal.”
Hameed said four teams had been formed to investigate the matter and were raiding various neighbourhoods in the city, but have yet to arrest any of the suspects except for Farzana’s father.
Civil Lines SP Mufakhar Adeel said Mozang police have registered a murder case against six persons, including Farzana’s father Azeem, her brothers Zahid and Ghulam Ali, cousins Mazhar Iqbal and Jahan Khan and aunt Saeeda, as well as nearly 20 other suspects.
Condemnation by rights groups
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly condemned the incident. “The Pakistani government must take urgent and strong measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so-called ‘honour killings’ and other forms of violence against women,” he said.
The Human Rights Cell of the Pakistan Peoples Party also condemned the brutal killing and called for a repeal of all the provisions of Qisas and Diyat Laws that allow easy settlements for murder.” Honour killings are not simply cultural acts, they are almost sustained by a law that allows easy acquittals for murders, especially those in the name of honour,” said Dr Nafisa Shah, the cell’s central coordinator.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2014.