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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pakistan's Prime Minister Orders Action in Brutal Stoning Death of Pregnant Woman

Is it acceptable in the 21st century to leave some societies in the stone-age in terms of basic human rights?

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has described the stoning to death of a woman by her family in front of a Lahore court as "totally unacceptable". Not 'shocking', not 'horrendous' not 'barbaric', just 'unacceptable'. Good grief!

Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant, was pelted with bricks and bludgeoned by relatives furious because she married against their wishes.

Her husband told the BBC that police simply stood by during the attack.

Lahore's police chief has denied this and said Ms Parveen had been killed by the time police arrived at the scene.
Police investigating stoning
There are hundreds of so-called "honour killings" in Pakistan each year.

This incident has prompted particular outrage as it took place in daylight while police and members of the public reportedly stood by and did nothing to save her.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered the chief minister of Punjab province to take "immediate action" and submit a report by Thursday evening.

"They watched Farzana being killed and did nothing," her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, told the BBC.

Mr Iqbal described the police as "shameful" and "inhuman" for their failure to stop the attack.

"We were shouting for help, but nobody listened. One of my relatives took off his clothes to capture police attention but they didn't intervene," he added.

Another witness told Reuters news agency that police ignored the attack.

"Policemen were standing outside the High Court, but no policeman came forward. In spite of the noise, no policeman took the trouble of coming forward to save her," the witness, who was not named, said.

However, Lahore police chief Shafique Ahmad questioned Mr Iqbal's credibility, and told the BBC that police did not stand by while the attack occurred.

Police were a distance away, and were told by a member of the public that a scuffle was taking place outside the court, Mr Ahmad said.

By the time police arrived, Ms Parveen had been killed after being hit on the head with a brick, he added.

Arranged marriages are the norm in Pakistan, and to marry against the wishes of the family is unthinkable in many deeply conservative communities.
Honour killing protest
Shahzeb Jillani, BBC News, Karachi
This murder has appalled Pakistan's small but vocal civil society. Social media activists took to Twitter and Facebook to express their shock. English-language newspapers have published strongly-worded editorials to denounce the brutal crime.

But all that is in sharp contrast to the muted reaction in the mainstream Urdu language media which, instead, chose to focus on political and security-related stories.

The killing of a woman in the name of honour remains an appalling reality in villages and towns across Pakistan.

As Dawn newspaper points out in its editorial: "The most shocking aspect of this killing, however, is that all the people witnessing the crime, even the law enforcers, were silent spectators as a woman was bludgeoned to her death."

Ms Parveen's father later surrendered to police but other relatives who took part in the attack are still free.

"We arrested a few of them and others are currently being investigated," local police chief Mujahid Hussain said.

Ms Parveen came from a small town outside the city of Lahore. According to reports, her family were furious because she decided to marry Mr Iqbal instead of a man they had chosen.

Her relatives then filed a case for abduction against Mr Iqbal at the High Court.

'Honour' killings in Pakistan

In 2013, 869 women murdered in so called "honour killings"

Campaigners say real number is likely to be much higher

Of these, 359 were so called "Karo Kari" cases, whereby family members consider themselves authorised to kill offending relatives to restore honour

Rights groups say conviction rate in cases of sexual and other violence against women is "critically low"

Source: Human Rights Commission of Pakistan annual report 2013

The newlyweds were only at the Lahore court to contest this case. Ms Parveen had already testified to police that she had married of her own free will.

Mr Iqbal told the BBC that when the couple arrived at the court on Tuesday to contest the case, his wife's relatives were waiting and tried to take her away.

As she struggled to free herself they dragged her to the floor, pelted her with bricks and then smashed her head. She died on the pavement.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was "deeply shocked" and urged Pakistan's government to take action.

There is, obviously, little appetite in Pakistan to bring human rights into the 21st century, but these villages are barely into the 15th century with their barbarity. I suspect Sharif's reaction is for the international media and utterly disingenuous.

Please pray for this murder to make a difference. Pray for the police, the courts, the government to be convicted of their contribution to this and other such horrible crimes.