28 May 2014

Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by her family

A pregnant woman is stoned to death by her own family in the street outside Lahore’s high court for choosing her own husband. Watch exclusive video of the aftermath, obtained by Channel 4 News.

Farzana Iqbal was waiting for the court to open when a group of around a dozen men including her father, two brothers and a former fiance, began attacking her with bricks and batons, according to Umer Cheema, a senior police officer.

She suffered severe head injuries and was pronounced dead in hospital.

Her lawyer, Ghulam Mustafa Kharal, who witnessed the attack, told journalists “When we reached the main gat the opposing party (her family) attacked us. They attacked and killed Farzana Parveen and injured her husband.”

Her father, who admitted the killing and said it was a matter of honour, was arrested, reported Mr Cheema.

According to the police, 25-year-old Iqbal had been engaged to her cousin but married Mohammed Iqbal (pictured above in an ambulance with his wife’s body). Following a post mortem her stepson told journalists that she had been five months pregnant.

She was at the court because her father Mohammad Azeem had filed an abduction case against Iqbal which, according to her lawyer, the couple was contesting.

The killing has been strongly condemned by Bilawal Bhutto, son of the assassinated prime minister Benazir Bhutto and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan’s Peoples Party.

In a statement he said the incident, which happened in full view of the Punjab authorities, should be a wake-up call for the whole of society: “it is the time for nation’s institutions to rise up to save humanity and human values before delving into issues that cause lesser impact on common man.” he said, stressing that strong action should be taken against the culprits who should face an exemplary punishment.

Violence against women

Pakistani women have rights enshrined law. As the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) points out, the Pakistani constitution declares that:

All citizens are equal before law and entitled to equal protection of law.

There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.

The state shall protect the marriage, the family, the mother…

But in reality many Pakistani families think a woman marrying her own choice of man brings dishonour on the family.

Flawed laws

In its annual report, the HRCP notes: “Far too many incidents of violence against women and young girls – including rape, murder and often burning of victims’ bodies – were reported during 2013.

It added:

“The conviction rate remained low throughout Pakistan. Except for Sindh, no province introduced bills on domestic violence and generally on violence against women.”

Few cases come to court and campaigners say those that do can take years to be heard.

Even when there is a conviction, Pakistani law allows a victim’s family to forgive the killer.

In honour killings, most of the time the woman’s killers are her family, points out Wasim Wagha of the Aurat Foundation. The law allows them to nominate someone to do the murder, then forgive him: “This is a huge flaw in the law” said Mr Wagha “We are really struggling on this issue.”