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Pakistani police make arrests in suspected ‘honor killing’ case

Pakistani police have detained the father and brother of an Italian woman of Pakistani descent who was strangled in a suspected “honor killing” case.

Irfan Sulehri, a senior police officer in Gujrat district of Punjab province, said on Thursday that police had arrested her father, Ghulam Mustafa, and her brother, Adnan Cheema.

The two are being held in a police lock-up and have not yet been brought before a court. They are due to appear in court when police complete their investigation, which may take weeks.

Sana Cheema, 25, who lived in the northern Italian city of Brescia, was visiting relatives in Pakistan when she died under suspicious circumstances last month. Her family initially said that she was suffering from a “chronic ulcer and hypotension”.

Police launched an investigation after suspicions were raised on social media that she might have been murdered by relatives in a so-called honor killing.

Authorities exhumed the woman’s body on April 25 to perform an autopsy.

“It has now been confirmed that she was strangled to death. And according to the [forensic] report, her neck was also broken,” police official Sulehri who investigated the case said on May 9.

Police say Cheema’s father brought her back to Pakistan to marry her off to a relative. Italian media reports said Cheema was murdered because she wanted to marry a man in Italy against her family’s wishes.

Pakistani policemen walk beside the grave of Italian national of Pakistani origin Sana Cheema, who was allegedly killed by her family members, in Gujrat of Pakistan’s Punjab province on April 25, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

In 2016, a British woman of Pakistani origin was killed by her father and her ex-husband in the eastern city of Jhelum after she married someone she loved in England.

Hundreds of women are killed every year in Pakistan in so-called honor killings by their own relatives for allegedly bringing shame on their families in the deeply conservative society.

Nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan in 2015 by relatives who believed they had dishonored their families, according to an April 2016 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan adopted legislation against honor killings in 2016, introducing tough punishment and closing a legal loophole that had allowed killers to walk free if pardoned by family members.

According to rankings of the Women, Peace and Security Index released last year, Pakistan was the fourth worst country for women. Of the 153 countries ranked for women’s inclusion, justice and security, Pakistan was ranked at number 150, with the highest discrimination against women in the world.

The World Economic Forum (WEF), an international non-profit foundation working independently from Switzerland, in its annual Global Gender Gap Report for 2013, ranked Pakistan as the world’s second-worst country in terms of gender equality, after Yemen.

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