Government’s Failure Leads to a
Pregnant Woman Being Stoned to Death
Asian Human Rights Commission
Police collect evidence near
the body of Farzana Parveen Iqbal, who
was stoned to death by members of her family outside a court
Lahore, Pakistan, in a murder to allegedly uphold the honor
family. (Photo from www.nationalturk.com)
The world is once again shocked by the news of
the stoning to death of a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Farzana
Parveen Iqbal, in Pakistan. The stoning took place before the Lahore
High Court where she had gone due to a summons. The stoning was
carried out by 20 members of her own family, including her father
and two brothers.
The reason for the stoning was that Farzana had married a person of
her own choice, and she was pregnant with a child from that
marriage. Her family did not approve of the marriage and was forcing
her to marry another person of their choice, who happened to be her
cousin. The father, who was aware of Farzana’s marriage, filed a
false complaint of abduction against her husband. The police filed
charges on the basis of the father’s complaint. It appears that the
filing of the complaint was done with the purpose of bringing her
out from hiding with the intent to kill her.
It is evident that the police have been a part of this conspiracy as
they should have investigated the complaint before filing such a
charge. Bringing persons to court with the intent to kill them,
particularly in cases relating to honor killings and blasphemy
cases, is a common practice in Pakistan, and the police would have
naturally been aware of the situation in this instance. It was when
Farzana arrived at the court in order to present her case to the
judge that she was already married that the brutal killing took
The culprits who took part in the stoning did so in broad daylight
and in full view of a crowd of people and then managed to escape as
there was no attempt to stop or arrest them. As the incident took
place before the High Court of Lahore, the police would have been
present in large numbers at the scene as they are always present
when the High Court is in session. In fact, Iqbal, Farzana’s
husband, told the BBC that the police stood by and did nothing to
prevent the stoning.
“We were shouting for help,” he exclaimed. “Nobody listened. One of
my relatives took off his clothes to capture the attention of the
police, but they did not intervene. They watched Farzana being
killed and did nothing.”
Farzana’s father later surrendered to the police but, as is usual in
such instances, showed no regret, no remorse, and admitted openly
that he committed this murder.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the
number of women falling victim to so-called honor killings is enough
to dispel all illusions about any interest in saving their lives. In
2013 alone, the HRCP recorded the deaths of nearly 900 women in
“honor” crimes from media reports. These women were killed because
the State did not confront this feudal practice supported by
religious fundamentalism and bigotry.
The Aurat Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working
for the rights of women, states that approximately 1,000 Pakistani
women are killed every year by their family members in honor
killings. The true figure is probably many times higher since the
foundation only compiles figures from newspaper reports. The
government does not compile national statistics.
In any case, the killing of persons who marry against the consent of
the family, which is usually identified by the term “honor
killings,” is a frequent and common phenomenon in Pakistan.
Furthermore, using the summons of a court as a subterfuge to bring
persons out of hiding so that such killings can take place is also a
frequent phenomenon. Such situations have arisen both in terms of
honor killings and killings relating to allegations of blasphemy.
The most famous incident of protest against this whole manipulation
of the law in order to kill victims involved Catholic Bishop John
Joseph, who, as a symbolic act of protest, shot himself to death.
Thus, the government of Pakistan is fully aware of this horror that
is being regularly perpetrated but has failed to take any meaningful
action in order to bring this practice to an end.
The issue is not about arresting a few persons after the incident.
The fundamental issue is the lack of a comprehensive plan on the
part of the government of Pakistan to deal with the problem. As long
as the government fails to develop a comprehensive plan and
implement it, with the cooperation of the law enforcement agencies,
honor killings will continue to take place in Pakistan.
The Asian Human Right Commission (AHRC) over a long period of time
has consistently drawn the attention of the government of Pakistan
to this practice and on every incident of this sort has renewed
calls to the government to give due consideration to address this
abominable practice. Similar calls have also been made to the
government from local sources in Pakistan as well as from the
Following the killing of Farzana Parveen Iqbal, the U.N. High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a comprehensive
statement in which, among other things, she stated that the
Pakistani government must take urgent measures to put an end to the
continuous stream of so-called honor killings and other forms of
violence against women. They must also make a much greater effort to
protect women like Farzana. 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.
In 2004, former president Pervez Musharraf defined honor killings as
murder and enabled passage of a law to that effect. However, the
eradication of such heinous criminal acts cannot be achieved only by
public announcements or through the enactment of laws. Any genuine
and effective action lies in the implementation of the law.
It is in this area that the government of Pakistan has proven itself
completely ineffective. The system of policing and law enforcement
in Pakistan is a law unto itself, and even the government is unable
to move this law enforcement institution to act even for the purpose
of dealing with the worst of crimes.
The failure of the government to carry out its responsibility lies
in its unwillingness and incapacity to exercise control over the
policing establishment. If the government proves powerless to move
its police to implement the law, and in particular to deal with such
heinous crimes, then no one can feel safe within the boundaries of
The AHRC also wishes to highlight the need that greater pressure
must be brought on the government by the international community to
ensure that it takes suitable action to end police neglect relating
to honor killings and all other forms of violence against women.
Mere ritual condemnation after honor killings take place is unlikely
to bring about any improvement in the situation at the present time.
The international community, including U.N. agencies, must engage
with the government of Pakistan in order to devise an agreement on a
practical scheme of action to deal with this situation once and for
all. If no such serious attempt is made by the international
community, it will not convince people who are threatened with
future attacks of this nature as well as the general population of
Pakistan which is confronted with a sense of powerlessness in the
face of such horrendous crimes. The failure of the law enforcement
agencies to deal with such crimes will only increase the
vulnerability of women in the country.
The AHRC calls upon the government of Pakistan not to let Farzana
Parveen Iqbal’s death be in vain. The people of Pakistan and people
of goodwill throughout the world have a right to expect that the
government will show its moral indignation and outrage against the
horror perpetrated by honor killings and other forms of violence
against women and vulnerable groups.
* The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is a regional
non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights
issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. More
information is available on AHRC’s web site at <http://www.humanrights.asia>.