The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman who was brutally beaten to death outside Lahore's High Court for marrying him against her family's wishes vowed Wednesday he would fight for justice. Farzana Iqbal, 25, was attacked outside Lahore's grand high court building by more than two dozen brick-wielding assailants including her brother and father, who has been arrested, police said.
Three-months pregnant Iqbal had gone to testify in defence of her husband Muhammad Iqbal, who was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into the marriage. Speaking to AFP by telephone from his home village of Jaranwala where had had gone to bury Farzana, Iqbal said: "We demand justice, we were being threatened since we got married."
The 45-year-old said he and his wife had survived a previous attack during the first hearing of the case on May 28. "On Tuesday as we were going to court from our lawyer's office almost 30 people attacked us, including her father, brothers and cousins," he said. The group of 10 or so people accompanying him were overwhelmed by the suddenness of the attack and fled in all directions, he said. "One of her brothers shot at her but missed, then the women in their group fell upon her and her brother and father finished her off," he added, distressed.
Police official Mushtaq Muhammed said police had so far apprehended Farzana's father Muhammad Azeem and were seeking five others -- two brothers and three cousins. Despite its gruesome and public nature in Pakistan's most liberal city, reaction in the media has been relatively muted -- indicating a growing apathy within society amid rising extremism, said activists.
"The court's regular resident police force was mysteriously absent from the scene, unable to take preventive action - or to provide protection or pre-emption to this and countless other foregone and foretold dis-honour killing cases," said Tahira Abdullah, a prominent women's rights campaigner. "We are on an irrevocable trajectory towards extremist and un-Islamic interpretations of Talibanised-Islam, to be "forcibly and compulsorily enforced" on us," she added.
Last year 869 women died in so-called "honour killings" according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Conviction rates are very low thanks to Pakistan's blood-money laws which allow kin to forgive perpetrators, usually family members in such cases. Iqbal, however, was undeterred. "There are no hurdles, each and every single individual has been nominated and everybody saw them so there should not be any delay in bringing the perpetrators to justice," he said.