By: Ashraf Javed
LAHORE – A young woman was found burnt to death at her parents in Lahore’s Factory Area, just a week after she married against the will of her family.
Police yesterday arrested four relatives of the victim including her mother and a brother as the killing sparked outrage in the metropolis.
Punjab chief minister has directed the police high-ups to send back a detailed report of the incident and bring the culprits to justice.
The death of the poor girl once again raised many questions that remain unanswered. Even if cultural values disprove a girl’s marrying her man of choice, is it right to kill her in the name of honour? Does such extreme action of a family really retrieve its honour in the society? How many girls will have to sacrifice their lives before we grant them a right which has been promised to them by both Islam and our national laws?
The reported homicide appears to be the latest incident of “honour killing” in Pakistan’s biggest province where murdering a female relative over an affair is regarded as “honour” for men.
Police investigators say the burnt body of the 17-year-old woman was lying in the stairs as they reached the spot early yesterday. The victim was named by police as Zeenat Bibi, a resident of Mast-Iqbal Road near Walton. Her body was moved to the morgue for an autopsy.
Her mother Parveen Bibi and brother Anees Ahmed are being interrogated by police in connection the killing.
Zeenat had eloped with Hassan and the couple contracted love-marriage before a local court on May 29. The girl was sent back home on the intervention of elders of both the families on June 3. Her husband yesterday told reporters that he had agreed to send his wife to her parents’ home under duress. “I was given guarantee that nobody will touch her, while a formal wedding reception was scheduled for Thursday,” said Hassan with sobbing eyes.
According to her husband, Zeenat was not willing to go back to her home. “She told me that she would be killed by her family, but later agreed when one of her close relatives guaranteed her safety.”
The victim lived with her husband for four days only and was set ablaze a day before the planned wedding. “Three days ago, she called me to tell that her family had backtracked. But I told her to wait for the promised eight days. But she was killed one day before the promise,” said Hassan.
During preliminary investigations, the victim’s mother rejected the murder allegations saying that Zeenat took her own life by setting herself on fire. She claimed that her daughter took the extreme step when the family members refused to accept her marriage with Hassan. However, a police investigator last night claimed that Parveen and other family members had confessed to the crime and that the police had also seized kerosene oil from the scene.
The woman was not in touch with her husband for the last three days, police investigators added. Police rushed to the house after they were alerted by locals that a young woman was set ablaze by her parents.
“The charred body was lying in the stairs as we reached the crime scene. She expired on the spot as she was badly burnt,” a policeman said. He said the police would treat the death as homicide after the autopsy report. A murder case will be filed against her relatives in the light of the autopsy report; he added. Forensic experts collected evidence . Heavy police contingents reached the spo.
Locals said after killing her daughter, Perveen went out on the street, took off her shawl and started beating herself on her chest. She shouted that she had killed her daughter for bringing shame to the family. However, the police did not confirm the statement.
On the directive of CM Shehbaz Sharif, a 3-member probe committee was formed. The committee will review every aspect of the incident and submit its report within 48 hours. Deputy Commandant Punjab Constabulary Abu Bakar will be the convener of the committee while Additional Secretary Judicial Home Department and an officer of Punjab Forensic Science Agency will be its members.
The Parliament of Pakistan passed the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 in March 2016. The laws bind the law enforcing agencies to treat the honour killing as heinous crime and the state would act against the killers in case they would be pardoned by the relatives of the victim.
According to Human rights Commission of Pakistan, at least 1276 incidents of honour killings were reported in the country from Feb 2014 to Feb 2016.