August 3, 2016 / 5:14 PM / 3 years ago

Pakistan police say British woman's suspected 'honor killing' was murder

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A British woman whose husband alleges she was killed for marrying him against her parents’ wishes was murdered, Pakistani police said on Wednesday.

The case attracted attention because it came just days after the high-profile “honor killing” of outspoken social media star Qandeel Baloch, whose brother confessed to the crime and has been arrested.

Samia Shahid, 28, a beautician from Bradford who had gone to visit her family in Pakistan, died last month in the village of Pandori in northern Punjab, the political power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Police spokeswoman Nabeela Ghazanfar said a forensic report on Shahid’s death had been released to a three-member investigative committee led by Deputy Inspector General Police Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh.

“The report says that she neither committed suicide, nor did she die a natural death,” Ghazanfar told Reuters. “She died of asphyxia after her breathing was choked, which leads to the possibility she was murdered. Now the team will carry out investigations along the lines that this is a murder.”

Shahid’s relatives said she had died of a heart attack, but her husband, Kazim Mukhtar, told Reuters last week that he believed she had been poisoned and then strangled.

No arrests have been made so far, but Shahid’s father and a cousin have been questioned by police. Police are also searching for her divorced first husband, Choudhry Shakeel, who is missing.

Mukhtar, her second husband, told media last week that the couple had received death threats from her family in the past. He also said her family was angered that Shahid converted from the majority Sunni to the minority Shia sect of Islam after the couple married.

Some 500 women are killed each year in Pakistan by relatives who feel their family has been shamed by a daughter or sister fraternizing with men, eloping or otherwise infringing conservative demands on women.

Last month’s murder of Qandeel Baloch, who had divided opinion in the deeply conservative Muslim society by regularly posting risqué photos on social media, led the government to announce that it would pass long-delayed legislation outlawing honor killing within weeks.

Reporting by Mubasher Bukhari,; writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik,; editing by Larry King

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