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Bradford woman’s death in Pakistan investigated after honour killing claims

 

 

Police are investigating the death of a British woman in Pakistan after her husband claimed she was the victim of an honour killing for marrying a man from outside the family allegedly against her parents’ wishes.

Samia Shahid, a 28-year-old Bradford, died on Wednesday while visiting relatives in Pandori village near Mangla Dam in northern Punjab, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

Shahid’s local MP, Naz Shah, has demanded that authorities in Pakistan exhume her body and commission an independent autopsy.

The police officer running the investigation in Pakistan told the Guardian he had sent samples from the body to the country’s top forensics lab in Lahore on Tuesday.

Mohammad Aqeel Abbas, the station house officer for Jhelum district who is investigating the case, said a postmortem was carried out immediately after she died and she was then buried in her village graveyard. There were no visible injuries or signs of violence on her body, he said.

Shahid, a “happy and bubbly” 28-year-old, was said to have suffered a fatal heart attack, her husband, Syed Mukhtar Kazam, claimed. He received the news last week while in Dubai, where the couple lived together. A source close to the family told the Guardian they believe she died after suffering an asthma attack.

Her husband said he feared she had been killed by her family, who he says refused to accept their relationship, partly as he was an “outsider”. Shortly before Shahid and Kazam married at Leeds town hall in September 2014, she had left her first husband, a first cousin from their village in Pakistan.

The family strongly deny Kazam’s claims. Her father, who is in Pakistan, told the Guardian all the allegations made by Kazam are “lies and allegations” against him.

“An investigation is under way and if I am found guilty I am ready for every kind of punishment,” he said. “My daughter was living a very peaceful and happy life. She had come to Pakistan on her own and was not under any pressure from her family.”

“This is a terrible tragedy but she died of natural causes,” said Mohammed Ali, a cousin in Bradford. “The family did a postmortem. There’s no evidence whatsoever of murder.” He disputed Kazam’s claim of marriage, referring to him as “that boy, Samia’s so-called husband”.

A family friend in Bradford said on Sunday that the family were not happy when she married Kazam but had learned to accept their relationship because they loved her.

The Guardian has seen a witness statement submitted to Pakistani police by Shahid’s father, Mohammed Shahid, in which he refers to his daughter’s husband as her cousin Mohammed Shakeel, not Kazam. The Guardian has also seen a copy of Shahid and Kazam’s British marriage certificate, signed on 24 September 2014.

Shah has asked the prime minister of Pakistan to intervene. In a letter written on Sunday to Nawaz Sharif, seen by the Guardian, Shah wrote: “Should this be [an honour killing] case then we must ensure justice is done for Samia and we must ensure this never happens again.”

A Foreign Office spokesman confirmed Shahid’s death, saying: “We are providing support to the family of a British national who has died in Pakistan, and are in contact with the local authorities to seek further information.”

A West Yorkshire police spokesman confirmed the force was aware of the death and would liaise with the Foreign Office and Pakistani authorities.

Kazam, a Pakistani national, claims that Shahid’s family did not approve of their “love marriage”. He says she moved to live with him in Dubai in May 2015, but had been back to Bradford twice in the last year to persuade her parents to accept the relationship.

Kazam claimed that at the start of July, she was encouraged to travel to Pakistan because one of her aunts had died, but she chose not to travel to the country.

Kazam claimed that Shadid was told that a family member was gravely ill in Pakistan and she flew out to Islamabad on 14 July.

Shahid was due to return last Thursday but Kazam said he received a call on Wednesday from one of Shahid’s cousins saying she had had a heart attack and died. He told the Guardian he didn’t believe his otherwise healthy wife would have suddenly died, and he flew to Pakistan to force the police to investigate.

“I am sure my wife is killed by the family,” Kazam said. “She was healthy. And she had no disease,” he said, adding: “I believe she was killed because her parents were not happy with our marriage.”

In Bradford, where the family live in a large end-terrace house in the Manningham area, family friends said they were shocked by Kazam’s allegations.

One woman, who did not want her name to be published, said she had known Shahid all her life. “She was happy and bubbly, loud and very much loved by her family.” Shahid had worked as a mobile beauty therapist but in Dubai had been working in an office for a property company, she said.

She was a “daddy’s girl”, the woman added. “You know how in our culture people often favour sons over daughters? It was the other way around with Samia. Her dad loved her so much. If she shed a tear then he would be crying his eyes out. She was her daddy’s princess.”

The woman said that Shahid’s family had been unhappy when she first announced her intention to marry Kazam but grew to accept it. “If they didn’t accept her, why would they have her back in their lives?” she said. “We’re not living back in the old days.”

Mohammed Ali, who said he was Shahid’s first cousin, said Shahid had fallen out with Kazam because he didn’t want her to have contact with her family. “She kept in touch with her family on the sly. She had fallen out with him when she left Dubai. She was all stressed out.”

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