Two male family members have been arrested in connection with the alleged “honour-killing” of a Bradford beauty therapist in Pakistan.
Samia Shahid died earlier this month while visiting relatives in northern Punjab.
Her husband Syed Mukhtar Kazam says he was informed by family members that the 28-year-old had a heart attack, but he claims she was the victim of a so-called honour killing.
Labour MP Naz Shah this week demanded an investigation into the death and now Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has ordered an urgent probe into the matter.
Nabila Ghazanfar, a police spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that police were alerted to Shahid’s death by her parents on July 20.
“The parents of Samia Shahid at the time told police they saw some fluid coming out from her mouth and that she was found dead in her room,” she said.
Ghazanfar said officers were waiting for Shahid’s post-mortem report when her husband Kazam told police he believed she was killed by her family.
She said the exact cause of Shahid’s death is not clear and police are still questioning suspects.
Mujahid Akbar, the district police chief, told the AP that police had detained two members of Shahid’s family for questioning.
“Nothing can be ruled out. It can be a case of honour killing, but right now we are waiting for reports of medical tests done on her body,” Akbar said.
The men are believed to be her father and a cousin. The Telegraph reports the pair have only been arrested for giving contradictory statements.
“We are investigating Chaudhary Shahid and Mobeen,” said local police chief Aqail Abbass. “This is due to the police initial investigation report in which we found a few contradictions and we want clearness from them”.
The paper adds that Chaudhary Shahid denies the second marriage to Kazam even occurred, insisting: “I don’t know who Syed Mukhtar [Kazam] is. My son-in-law is Chaudary Shakil, and my late daughter was living a happy life with him.”
The Guardian claims to have seen a copy of Shahid and Kazam’s British marriage certificate.
Police are also trying to track down Shahid’s first husband (named as Chaudary Shakil by her father), who is also her cousin and from the same village in Pakistan. Some outlets are reporting he has been located and arrested, though this has not been confirmed.
District police chief Akbar said Shahid’s husband Kazam told police that his wife angered her family by divorcing her cousin two years ago to marry him.
Kazam has flown to Pakistan from the home he shared with Shahid in Dubai to assist police. He told the Guardian: “I am sure my wife is killed by the family. She was healthy. And she had no disease. I believe she was killed because her parents were not happy with our marriage.”
The family have strongly denied the claims as “lies and allegations”.
Bradford MP Naz Shah, who was herself forced into an arranged marriage at the age of just 15, has written to Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif, demanding Shahid’s body is exhumed and an independent autopsy is carried out.
West Yorkshire Police and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are in contact with Pakistani authorities as part of the investigation.
The latest case surfaced less than two weeks after taboo-defying social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch was strangled by her brother for posting racy photos that were deemed shameful in conservative Pakistan.
Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission says nearly 1,100 women were killed in the country last year by relatives who believed they had dishonoured their families.
A further 900 women suffered sexual violence and nearly 800 took or tried to take their own lives.
The UN states over 5,000 ‘honour killings’ are reported annually worldwide, though this is believed to be an underestimation as many are never reported because of the ‘shame’ they would bring upon the family. No cases are registered, no bodies are found and no investigations take place.
Relatives - fathers, brothers, husbands and even mothers - who believe the woman in question has inflicted shame and dishonour upon them, almost always carry out the executions.
They are deeply rooted in patriarchal and conservative cultures where the ‘honour’ of the family is measured by the obediance, chastity and morality of its women.