"Honor killing" attempted when woman chose to marry her love

LAHORE, Pakistan -- An 18-year-old Pakistani woman survived being shot and thrown in an irrigation canal by her close family members for choosing to marry the man she loved, a senior Pakistani government official told CBS News Thursday.

The case, which adds to other so-called "honor killings," highlights increasing attacks on Pakistani women by their close family members. Women's rights activists for years have protested cases across the south Asian country where women have been killed to protect their family's honor after they wanted to marry out of choice.

Western diplomats who spoke to CBS News said the trend has been fueled by male members of families seeking to retain the family's wealth within their households by forcing their single, young female relatives to marry their cousins rather than allow them to marry someone outside the family.

Last month, Farzana Iqbal, 25, was killed when her father and two brothers along with more than 20 of her relatives stoned her to death outside the provincial high court in Lahore, capital of the populous Punjab province, after she married a man of her choice.

Her killing drew condemnation from within and outside the country as a case that highlighted the failure of the country's authorities to provide adequate protection to women under threat.

A senior government official in Lahore who spoke to CBS News Thursday on condition that he would not be named said the latest case involving 18-year-old Saba Maqsood took place near the city of Hafizabad in the Punjab. Though the exact timing of the incident was not clear, the official said, it took place either Wednesday or Thursday.

"Saba was taken to a canal near Hafizabad by her father, uncle and brother along with one or two family members," the official said. "They shot her, tucked her in a sack and threw her in a canal."

He added that the woman survived and managed to swim out of the canal before being taken to a government hospital, where she was treated and later gave a statement to the police.

"It is a miracle that this woman has survived," the official said. "She has claimed in her statement that her father, brothers and a few other family members tried to kill her because she married someone out of her own choice."

Babar Sattar, a respected lawyer and commentator on legal affairs, said attacks on women from impoverished backgrounds also highlighted the degree to which ordinary Pakistanis often have no protection under the country's legal system.

"Unless there is someone very powerful involved, the state will not protect them," Sattar told CBS News.

Legal experts say widespread corruption across the police and the judicial system often means that low-income individuals practically receive no protection.

Others, however, said the inroads made by militants across Pakistan have encouraged many individuals to take the law in their own hands.

Farzana Bari, a women's rights campaigner and professor of gender studies at Quaid-e-Azam University in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad, told CBS News that the country must take short-term steps to immediately begin tighter enforcement of laws along with longer-term steps to beat back militant trends.

"Unless there is a combination of steps involving immediate protection followed by educating ordinary people, the situation will not improve," said Bari. "Such criminality is unfortunately an outcome of militancy in our country, but these cases involving women as victims are often ignored."

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a widely respected independent watchdog, there were nearly 900 cases of honor killings involving women in 2013.

  • Farhan Bokhari

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