A Pakistani man whose pregnant wife was bludgeoned to death by angry family members who did not approve of the marriage fondly recalled a brief life together with the woman he fell in love with at first sight.
Farzana Iqbal, 25, was murdered by a group of assailants including her father on Tuesday, according to witnesses and police, because she fell in love with and married Muhammad Iqbal in January instead of a cousin they had selected for her.
Iqbal, 45 in his mud-brick home in the central Pakistani village of Moza Sial, 240 km (150 miles) west of Lahore:
“She was a very happy person. And she was the best wife anyone could ask for.
She never lied. She never broke her promises. That’s what I loved and respected the most about her. She never let me down. But I let her down. It was my duty to save her and I let her down.”
The dark tale of love, betrayal and murder has stunned people around the world, with the United Nations condemning Farzana’s killing and a major international newspaper running a photograph of the grisly aftermath of the attack on its front page.
In Pakistan, a Muslim country of some 180 million citizens, the reaction has been more muted.
Many conservative families consider it shameful for a woman to fall in love and choose her own husband. Refusal to accept arranged marriages frequently results in “honor killings.”
In 2013, 869 cases were reported in the media, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, and the true figure is probably high since many cases go unreported.
News traveled further afield in this case partly because it took place in broad daylight outside the High Court in the city of Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital.
Murder, Marriage, Murder
The couple’s relationship was itself both of a shockingly violent act, one perpetrated by Iqbal himself. In a blunt admission, he said he killed his first wife in a fight over Farzana in 2009.
“I got angry. We were fighting, the kind of fights husband and wife often have. But I held her by the neck and just meant to push her but she died.
I was going to see Farzana and she stood in my way and said she wouldn’t let me go. So I pushed her. There was a murder case against me for three to four years but then my sons forgave me, so I went free. Then I married Farzana.”
Under Islamic law, which is accepted by Pakistani courts, victims’ families can decide the fate of convicted criminals.
On Tuesday, Farzana, her husband and other family members were attacked on their way to Lahore High Court, where they planned to argue that their marriage was genuine in response to a charge of kidnapping brought by Farzana’s family.
Iqbal, a farmer, cried as he prayed at the freshly dug grave of his wife. Leaves and rose petals were strewn over the earth, and the petals stained the back of his white shirt red. He said he and his wife had been threatened by her family several times after he told the father he was unable to pay more than $800 to win approval for the relationship.
Attempts in Lahore to contact representatives of the four arrested people were not immediately successful, and it was not clear whether they had lawyers.
Iqbal described his friendship and short-lived marriage with Farzana as blissful.
“Our lands are side-by-side and I used to see her when she came to her lands. I found her very beautiful and I fell in love with her. I asked for her hand in marriage and her family agreed at first.
She used to love singing this song to me: ‘Don’t talk ill of the lover who is gone, Don’t think bad of the one you love’. She would always sing this to me.
When I took a shower, she would wait outside with my clothes. And she would sit me in front of the mirror and comb my hair. When I went to work on the fields, she often came along. I would tell her to go back home but she wanted to stay there with me.”
Stepson Aurangzeb, 22, sitting alongside his father:
“She was my mother. She would do anything for me. She was a beautiful person. I forgave my father for killing my real mother and then god gave me a second mother. Now she is also gone.”
Farzana lived in the mud-brick home with Iqbal and his three sons. On the day she was murdered, she kissed the children good-bye before leaving for Lahore.
“We had to leave for the hearing. I can still see her walking around this room, getting ready. She changed her clothes, put on some cream, combed her hair in front of the mirror.
Then she sat down and put on her shoes. She kissed her stepsons and told them: ‘I’m going away. If life remains, I will see you again.'”