As Dawn News points out, “honor killings” involving immolation are distressingly common in Pakistan, often triggered by a young Pakistani woman marrying someone her family disapproves of. The murder of 18-year-old Zeenat Rafique was especially diabolical because her mother lured her into an ambush by offering to reconcile with her.
After Rafique eloped with a man her family did not approve of after secretly dating him for five years, the family “coaxed the deceased to come back home, on the pretext that they will send her off with their consent.”
Instead, Rafique’s mother (and, according to a CNN report, her brother) strangled her unconscious, tied her to a bed, doused her in gasoline, and set her ablaze. The autopsy found smoke in her respiratory tract, indicating she was still alive when they set her on fire.
Her mother, Parveen Bibi, turned herself in and defiantly stood by her actions without remorse, while her brother is still on the run from police. In fact, after the murder, she reportedly ran into the street, beat her chest, and yelled, “People! I have killed my daughter for misbehaving and giving our family a bad name!”
“We are looking for her brother because an old woman cannot perform this act alone. There has to be help,” said Punjab police official Nabeela Ghazanfar.
Rafique’s widower, 19-year-old Hassan Khan, said she feared violence from her family and only agreed to return home after her paternal uncle guaranteed her safety.
Khan said Rafique was visited by her mother, in the company of this uncle, three days before her murder on Wednesday, to “try to persuade her to return home and have a marriage ceremony with the family, so that she wouldn’t be branded as someone who had eloped,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“Don’t let me go, they will kill me,” Khan reported his wife pleading.
In a final insult, Dawn reports that Rafique’s family refused to claim her body, “leaving her new husband’s family to bury her charred remains in the dark in a graveyard near the city.”
Dawn quotes human rights activist Hina Gilani saying that Zeena Rafique’s murder “shows that there is something flawed in law and society,” especially since the perpetrators often get away with such “honor killings.”
About 1,100 women were killed by their relatives in Pakistan last year.
In one of the most recent examples, Dawn reports, “19-year-old Maria Sadaqat was tortured then burned alive for refusing a marriage proposal from a school principal’s son in Murree.” Another teenage girl was strangled and burned in April by the local tribal council for helping one of her friends elope.