The husband of the pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death outside a courthouse revealed in a grisly twist on Thursday that he had strangled his first wife.
Farzana Iqbal was murdered on Tuesday outside the Lahore High Court by over two-dozen brick-wielding attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against her family’s wishes—while police stood by.
The brazen, brutal nature of the killing, in broad daylight in the center of Pakistan’s second largest city, has triggered outrage around the world.
The United States on Thursday 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 honor, such as so-called honor killings.”
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, Farzana’s husband Mohammad Iqbal, 45, admitted to AFP on Thursday that he had killed his first wife—and was spared prison because his son forgave him for the act. “I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love,” Iqbal said, adding that he had strangled her. After admitting to the murder he switched off his phone and did not respond to further calls.
Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer investigating Farzana’s killing, 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.”
Relatives murder hundreds of women in Pakistan each year supposedly to defend family “honor,” but the fact that police officers guarding the court apparently did nothing to intervene to save 25-year-old Farzana has added to the outrage over the killing.
Farzana, who was three months pregnant, had gone to court to testify in Iqbal’s defense after her relatives accused him of kidnapping her and forcing her into marriage. 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 Farzana’s family had initially agreed to their marriage but later changed their mind after he did not pay them a big enough dowry.
And he shed further light on Farzana’s horrifying last moments. “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.”
The incident gained prompt attention from global media and international human right activists. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay strongly condemned the killing on Wednesday and urged Pakistan to take “urgent and strong measures” to put an end to so-called honor killings.
British Foreign Secretary William described the murder as “barbaric” and urged Islamabad to fully investigate it. “I am shocked and appalled by the death of Farzana Iqbal: both for the appalling manner of her death, and the unspeakable cruelty and injustice of murdering a woman for exercising her basic right to choose who to love and marry,” Hague said in a statement. “There is absolutely no honor in honor killings and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice.”