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Pakistani mother burns daughter alive for choosing own husband in “honour killing”

Zeenat Rafiq, 18, was burnt alive by her mother in Lahore, Pakistan, in a so-called “honour killing.” She died after her mother and brother tied to her a bed, doused her with kerosene, and set her alight. The incident occurred at the family home, with police saying her body shows signs of extended torture.

Parveen Rafiq has been arrested and has since confessed to killing her daughter for “refusing to have a traditional wedding.” The daughter did not seek permission to marry, instead choosing to elope with her boyfriend. A post mortem examination will establish whether or not she was alive when she was set on fire.

Hassan Khan, widower of Zeenat Rafiq
Hassan Khan, widower of Zeenat Rafiq

“Her mother has confessed to the crime but we find it hard to believe that a 50-year-old woman committed this act all by herself with no help from the family members,” police superintendent Ibadat Nisar said.

The police are still searching for the victim’s brother, who has since disappeared and presumed to be “on the run.”

Zeenat chose to marry boyfriend Hasan Khan, a mechanic in the same city, before court magistrates last month. Upon finding out, her parents asked to have the marriage ceremony repeated in a “traditional family function,” due to the “shame” of having a daughter to would carry the label of an eloper for life.


According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent body, nearly 1,200 women are murdered by relatives each year in so-called “honour killings” for going against Pakistan’s conservative Islamic standards.

Earlier this month, Maria Sadaqat, a 19-year-old teacher, was tortured and then burnt alive for refusing to marry the son of the headmaster, a man over twice her age. Sadaqat was attacked in northern rural village of Upper Dewal and died two days later in hospital.

Ms. Sadaqat had been forced out of her job after the headmaster began harassing after she turned down the proposal from his son. Before she died, she was able to give a statement to police, testifying that five perpetrators had broken into her home, dragged her to an open area, and then assaulted her before setting her alight.

The prime suspects are her former manager – the headmaster – and his son. Four additional men are in custody awaiting trial.

A month before, police arrested 16 members of a local tribe council who allegedly tortured and strangled a 17-year-old girl to death for helping a friend elope.

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