LAHORE – Just days after 17-year-oldÂ Zeenat Rafiq eloped with a man against her familyâ€™s wishes, her relatives asked her to return home so they could throw her a proper ceremony.
â€œDonâ€™t let me go, they will kill me,â€ her husband Hassan Khan recalled her saying, according to the Associated Press.
She was Punjabi. He was Pashtun. Her family was furious that she ran away and got married without their permission.
An uncle eventually convinced her to return. On Wednesday, Zeenat was burned alive by her mother.
Police say the mother, Parveen, tied Zeenat to a cot and poured kerosene before setting her on fire, according to the Guardian. It’s the latest of several “honor killings,” a practice that kills hundreds of girls each year in Pakistan.
Zeenat’s body was charred when police found it, AP reported. It showed signs of beating and strangulation, Officer Ibadat Nisar said.
When police confronted Parveen, she confessed to killing her daughter with the help of her son Ahmar.
Officer Sheikh Hammad recalls the mother saying, â€œI donâ€™t have any regrets.â€
Ahmar is on the run from police, CNN reported.
People commit “honor killings” to punish the victims for violating the conservative Muslim country’s norms on marriage. They believe that sex outside of marriage, or an inter-ethnic marriage in Zeenatâ€™s case, can disgrace the entire familyÂ and that the only rectification is death.
Last week, Maria Bibi, a schoolteacher, was set on fire for refusing to marry a man twice her age. Authorities arrested the father of the man she rejected and four others. Police arrested 13 members of a local tribal council a month ago on charges that they strangled 17-year-old Ambreen Riasat and set her on fire. The crime? Helping a friend elope.
“Honor killings” are a tricky legal matter, even when the suspects plead guilty to the crime. The current law in Pakistan states that family members are allowed to forgive the killer, forcing prosecutors to drop charges, the Guardian reported. That happens often when an entire family feels its honor has been besmirched by the victim.
The AP reports that when neighbors hearing the screams ran toward the Rafiq house, family members stood in the way and barred them from entering.
But this case has caught the attention ofÂ Shahbaz Sharif,Â the chief minister of Punjab and brother of prime minister Nawaz Sharif, according to the Guardian.Â The chief minister pledged earlier this year to close a loophole in Islamic law that allows those who commit “honor killings” to go free.