Pregnant Pakistani woman's public stoning draws outrage

Pakistani relatives transport the body of a pregnant woman who was beaten to death with bricks by members of her own family for marrying a man of her own choice in Lahore, May 27, 2014 Getty Images

ISLAMABAD - The brutal killing of a Pakistani woman outside a supposedly well protected courthouse prompted a growing outcry Wednesday, both locally and internationally, and underlined Islamabad's long-term failure to provide sufficient protection to women at threat.

Farzana Parveen, 25, was brutally killed Tuesday when as many as 20 members of her own family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks outside the provincial high court in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. It was the latest so called "honor killing" in the conservative Muslim society.

This case follows many others in which women have been killed by their own families in Pakistan in the name of preserving the family's honor after they chose to marry men of their own choice, rather than accept a partner chosen by parents in a traditional arranged marriage.

According to statistics compiled by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an independent watchdog, nearly 900 women were honor killing victims in 2013 alone.

Parveen decided to marry Mohammad Iqbal out of choice, defying her family, which had arranged for her to wed one of her cousins.

A senior police officer in Lahore told CBS News that Parveen was pregnant at the time of her death. He also said she was buried after midnight on Tuesday by her husband and members of his family, who feared that a funeral during the day might provoke another attack. The police officer spoke on the condition of anonymity, as is common with Pakistani officials.

"The fact that she 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," United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement. "I do not even wish to use the phrase "honor killing" -- there is not the faintest vestige of honor in killing a woman in this way."

While the killings are far from unusual, Parveen's case has evoked widespread concern due to the location of the murder. Lahore's high court is meant to be better protected by police than many other government sites across the country.

"This incident is extremely horrifying. It speaks of such poor law enforcement on the prime minister's home turf," said Shireen Mazari, a leader of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, led by Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket star turned politician.

Lahore and its surrounding areas are considered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's home turf.

In Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, a senior Western diplomat told CBS News "the attack which killed this unfortunate woman lasted for more than twenty minutes. The shocking question is, where was the police? Were they not supposed to protect a location as important as the highest court in the biggest city of prime minister Sharif's home province?"

"The regular resident police force was mysteriously absent from the scene, unable to take preventive action - or to provide protection," noted Tahira Abdullah, a prominent human rights campaigner.

On Wednesday, the HRCP strongly criticized Pakistani authorities for their failure to protect Parveen. It claimed there was a clear danger to her life, as she had received death threats from her paternal family in recent months.

"The family had obviously come prepared to commit murder. Parveen's father had no remorse when he surrendered to the police and called the cold-blooded murder an honor killing," said HRCP in a statement. "Such brazen actions have been encouraged by the authorities' failure to fulfill their duty to protect citizens' lives."

  • Farhan Bokhari

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.