LAHORE/ISLAMABAD – The husband of a woman stoned to death in Pakistan killed his first wife four years ago, police and relatives said Thursday, in a shocking twist both showing how complicated justice can be and what domestic horror some women face in the country.
A mob of family members, including her father and brothers, beat 25-year-old Farzana Parveen to death Tuesday with bricks taken from a construction site in the eastern city of Lahore as onlookers stood by, authorities said.
After the killing, many in Pakistan offered their condolences to Parveen’s husband, Mohammed Iqbal, as it seemed the family had killed her for wanting to marry him.
But on Thursday, Zulfiqar Hameed, the deputy inspector general for the Punjab police, said authorities had arrested Iqbal for the October 2009 killing of his first wife, Ayesha Bibi. Hameed could not offer details about the slaying, but said the case was withdrawn after a family member forgave him.
Under Pakistani law, those charged with a slaying can see their criminal case dropped if family members of the deceased forgive them or accept “blood money” for the crime.
Reached at his village near the town of Jaranwala, Iqbal said he could not speak because he was praying at his second wife’s grave.
One of Iqbal’s five children, Aurang Zeb, said his father killed his mother in 2009 over a dispute. He said his father was arrested, but the children later forgave him and the case was withdrawn.
“We don’t want to discuss whatever had happened in the past, but I confirm that we had forgiven our father Iqbal,” Zeb told The Associated Press, adding that his father was in a state of shock after the killing of his second wife.
Two of Iqbal’s cousins also confirmed that he killed his first wife but said he had been forgiven by one of his sons.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the latest slaying, calling it “intolerable.” Demanding to know why police stood by while the woman was battered to death in front of one of the country’s top courts, he called on authorities in Punjab province to find the remaining culprits.
The statement, issued by Sharif’s office, further described Iqbal’s death as a “brutal killing” and said it was “totally unacceptable.”
“I am directing the chief minister to take immediate action and a report must be submitted by this evening to my office,” it quoted Sharif as saying.
Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, also strongly condemned the slaying, saying she didn’t want to call it an “honor killing” because “there is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way.”
“The fact that she (Iqbal) was killed on her way to court shows a serious failure by the state to provide security for someone who — given how common such killings are in Pakistan — was obviously at risk,” Pillay said Wednesday, calling on Pakistan’s government to stop honor slayings.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Thursday welcomed comments by senior Pakistani leaders condemning “this heinous crime,” but noted it was at least the third honor killing reported in Pakistan this week.
Pakistan, home to 180 million people, is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the majority of its citizens have long been conservative. Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in honor killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behavior that is perceived to bring shame upon her family.
Pakistan has one of the highest rates of violence against women globally, yet activists say “blood money” offerings often mean that crimes against women by their spouses or other family members are ignored.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that at least 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013.