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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#TWIST: Husband of Pakistani woman stoned to death outside Lahore court admits to killing his first wife

The husband of a pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death outside a Lahore courthouse murdered his first wife, he told AFP on Thursday, in a twist to a story that has caused shock waves around the world.

Farzana Parveen was murdered on Tuesday outside the Lahore High Court by more than two dozen attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against her family's wishes.

The brazen, brutal nature of the killing, in broad daylight in the centre of Pakistan's second largest city, triggered outrage with activists around the world condemning the country's authorities for allowing such incidents to take place.

Now Parveen's husband Mohammad Iqbal, 45, has admitted killing his first wife.

"I was in love with Farzana and killed my first wife because of this love," adding that he had strangled her.

Iqbal said he was spared a prison term because his son -- who alerted police to the murder -- later forgave him under Pakistan's controversial blood-money laws.

Rights groups have expressed fears the same blood-money laws that spared Iqbal could be used to pardon Parveen's killers.

Zulfiqar Hameed, a senior police officer investigating the killing of Parveen, told reporters: "Iqbal was a notorious character and he had murdered his first wife six years ago.  A police case was lodged against him and he was on the run for many weeks.

"He was arrested and later released after a compromise with his family."

According to Iqbal, a farmer from a rural village in the Punjab, Parveen's family had initially agreed to their marriage but they had later fallen out because they wanted a greater amount in dowry.

Meanwhile the country's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has demanded to know why police apparently stood by while the woman was first shot and then stoned to death.

Mr Sharif had taken notice of the "brutal killing" in the presence of police, his press office said in a statement, adding that a "totally unacceptable" crime had to be dealt with promptly by law.

"I am directing the chief minister to take immediate action and a report must be submitted by this evening to my office," it said, quoting Sharif.

Lahore police chief Shafiq Ahmad has denied that police officers were present when the attack took place. 

"They arrested the father, the main accused, a few moments after the incident," Ahmad said. "... by the time police reached the scene, the lady had been murdered."

All the suspects, except the father, who has been detained, have disappeared. 

A police officer on Tuesday quoted the father as saying it had been an honour killing.

Honour killings are common in Pakistan.  While the brutality of this case has caused international outrage, the reaction in Pakistan has been more muted - in stark contrast to the public outpouring of grief that followed the horrific gang rape of a young medical student in India in December 2012.

In the Pakistani capital Islamabad, about 40 activists protested against brutality against women, shouting "Hang the killers of Farzana!" and "We don't accept this injustice".

One activist told Reuters: "Violence against women is on the rise. Women are being killed in the name of honour.  The criminal justice system doesn't work. This particular incident was very brutal. Police were there and the poor woman was killed."

Muhammad Aurangzeb, Farzana's 20-year-old stepson, described how one relative had shot point blank at her, then grabbed her head scarf, causing her to fall over.

While a member of Iqbal's party wrestled the gun away, a female cousin grabbed a brick and hit Farzana with it, he said.

"She was screaming and crying 'don't kill me, we will give you money'," said Iqbal. He said he tried to save her but the mob of more than 20 beat him back.

At one point, six people were beating her with bricks as she screamed, he said, and he and his stepson begged police to help.  Finally she stopped screaming.

The attack happened near the gate of the heavily guarded court, the two men said, on one of the busiest roads in Lahore.

The couple had been due to testify there that morning that their marriage was genuine in response to a false charge of kidnapping brought by Farzana's family.

It was not the first time her family had tried to kill the woman, said her lawyer, Rai Ghulan Mustafa.

On 12 May, seven of her relatives had tried to force their way into his office, where she was sitting, he said, but his colleagues had fought them off.

Later they attacked her near a police station. Officers intervened and held the attackers for an hour before releasing them without charge, he said.

"She was afraid of being killed," Mustafa said.

In London, British Pakistani politician Sayeeda Warsi called the killing "abhorrent" and called for the perpetrators to be tracked down while the Archbishop of Canterbury - on an official visit to Pakistan - described Farzana's murder as a "revolting lynching".

In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said: "There is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way."

On the ground in Pakistan, the incident was all but ignored.  Most national media outlets gave little attention to it while officialdom remained mute for two whole days.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said there were nearly 900 attacks on women for a variety of reasons: for wearing jeans, looking out of windows, singing or giving birth to girls.

That number was the one reported in the media with activists saying that the true figure is probably much higher as most attacks and honour killings go unreported, particularly in rural areas.

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