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Pakistan PM denounces 'honour killing'

Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police stood by while a pregnant woman was stoned to death.

Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police stood by while a pregnant woman was stoned to death. Picture: AFP.

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police apparently stood by while a pregnant woman was stoned and beaten to death by her family in front of one of the country's top courts, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Farzana Iqbal, 25, was attacked on Tuesday, police said, because she had married the man she loved.

Sharif had taken notice of the "brutal killing" in the presence of police, his press office said in a statement, adding that a "totally unacceptable" crime had to be dealt with promptly by law.

"I am directing the chief minister to take immediate action and a report must be submitted by this evening to my office," it said, quoting Sharif. Iqbal's husband said that police did nothing during the 15 minutes the violence lasted outside Lahore High Court.

"I begged them to help us but they said, this is not our duty," Muhammed Iqbal told Reuters. "I took off my shirt (to be humble) and begged them to save her."

In parts of Pakistan, a largely Muslim nation of 180 million people, women are expected to agree to arranged marriages and refusal can mean an "honour killing".

Many Pakistani families think it dishonourable for a woman to fall in love and choose her own husband.

But Lahore police chief Shafiq Ahmad said no police were present. "They arrested the father, the main accused, a few moments after the incident," he said. "... by the time police reached the scene, the lady had been murdered."

Police initially said Farzana had been stoned, but Iqbal told Reuters that relatives had swung bricks, not thrown them.

All the suspects, except the father, who has been detained, have disappeared. A police officer on Tuesday quoted the father as saying it had been an honour killing.

The 25-year-old had offended her family by marrying Iqbal instead of a cousin selected for her.

Honour killings are common in Pakistan, but the brutality of this case caused outrage around the world, although in Pakistan itself reaction was more muted - in stark contrast to the public grief and outrage caused by the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in neighbouring India in 2012.

In the capital Islamabad, about 40 activists protested against brutality agianst women, shouting "Hang the killers of Farzana!" and "We don't accept this injustice".

"Violence against women is on the rise. Women are being killed in the name of honour," said Farzana Bari, an activist.

"The criminal justice system doesn't work. This particular incident was very brutal. Police were there and the poor woman was killed."

In Lahore, police said her father, two brothers and a former fiance were among the attackers.

Muhammad Aurangzeb, Farzana's 20-year-old stepson, described how one relative had tried to shoot her, then grabbed her head scarf, causing her to fall over.

While a member of Iqbal's party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit Farzana with it, he said.

"She was screaming and crying 'don't kill me, we will give you money'," said Iqbal. He said he tried to save her but the mob of more than 20 beat him back.

At one point, six people were beating her with bricks as she screamed, he said, and he and his stepson begged police to help.

Finally she stopped screaming.

The attack happened near the gate of the heavily guarded court, the two men said, on one of the busiest roads in Lahore.

The couple had been due to testify there that morning that their marriage was genuine in response to a false charge of kidnapping brought by Farzana's family.

It was not the first time her family had tried to kill the woman, said her lawyer, Rai Ghulan Mustafa.

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