A Pakistani husband revealed he strangled his first wife to marry Farzana Parveen, the pregnant woman stoned to death outside a courthouse in a widely denounced act of “honour killing”.
The death prompted Pakistan’s prime minister today to demand “immediate action”.
Parveen, 25, was murdered on Tuesday outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore by more than two dozen attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against her family’s wishes – while police stood by.
They killed her with bricks stolen from a construction site. Parveen, who was three months pregnant, had gone to court to testify in Iqbal’s defence after he was accused by her relatives of kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage.
The brazen, brutal nature of the killing, in broad daylight in the centre of Pakistan’s second-largest city, has triggered outrage around the world.
The attack also casts a spotlight on Pakistan’s controversial blood-money laws which allow relatives of homicide victims to forgive their perpetrators – who, in cases such as this, are often also family members.
In a startling twist, Parveen’s husband Mohammad Iqbal, 45, admitted to AFP today that he had killed his first wife – and was spared prison because he was forgiven for the act by his son.
“I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love,” Iqbal said, adding that he had strangled her.
Before signing off, Iqbal, a farmer, said he had been receiving death threats from his in-laws, and said he did not believe police were actively pursuing his wife’s killers.
“I am already upset and worried but now they are threatening to kill me as well,” he said.
He said Parveen’s family had initially agreed to their marriage but later changed their mind after he did not pay them a big enough dowry.
“Five to six people were hitting her in the head, she was shouting for help, she was screaming but they killed my helpless wife,” he said. “We were in love.”
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 He said his father was arrested but the children later forgave him and the case was withdrawn.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 said, adding that his father was in a state of shock after his second wife’s death.
Initially, many in Pakistan offered their condolences to Parveen’s husband, Mohammed Iqbal, after the killing as the family apparently didn’t want her to marry him.
But Iqbal was arrested for the October 2009 killing of his first wife, Ayesha Bibi.
Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer investigating the killing of Parveen, said police would be filing a report to the government detailing Iqbal’s past.
“Iqbal was a notorious character and he had murdered his first wife six years ago,” Hameed said. “He was arrested and later released after a compromise with his family.”
Two of Iqbal’s cousins also said he killed his first wife but said he had been forgiven by one of his sons.
The United States today branded the incident “heinous”, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denouncing “unjustifiable acts against women around the world, especially ¡§violence that occurs in the name of tradition and honour, such as so-called honour killings”.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told the Punjab chief minister, his brother Shahbaz Sharif, to act on the “brutal killing of lady in the premises of high court in the presence of police”, a statement from his office said.
“I am directing the Chief Minister to take immediate action and report must be submitted by this evening to my office,” Sharif said in the statement.
“This crime is totally unacceptable and must be dealt with in accordance with law promptly.”
Pakistan, home to some 180 million people, is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, and the majority of its citizens long have been fairly conservative. Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, and hundreds of women are murdered every year in so-called honour killings carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour that is perceived to bring shame upon her family.
Pakistan has one of the highest rates of violence against women globally. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in honour killings last year.
With additional reporting from Associated Press