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Pakistan Prime Minister on Stoning of Pregnant Woman by Family: 'Totally Unacceptable'

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised action and condemned as "totally unacceptable" the murder of a pregnant woman who was stoned to death by close to 20 members of her family for marrying her husband.

BBC News reported that Sharif has ordered the chief minister of Punjab province to take "immediate action" and submit a report by Thursday evening, detailing the incident that led to the death of 25-year-old Farzana Parveen, who was three months pregnant at the time.

"The most shocking aspect of this killing, however, is that all the people witnessing the crime, even the law enforcers, were silent spectators as a woman was bludgeoned to her death," Dawn newspaper reported.

Parveen was pelted to death by her father, brothers, and other family members who attacked her and her husband, Mohammad Iqbal, with batons and bricks in broad daylight before the high court of Lahore earlier this week.

The woman was reportedly being punished for choosing to marry Iqbal, rather than submitting to an arranged marriage, as is the local tradition.

"I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court," Zia Awan, a prominent Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist, said.

The father, Mohammad Azeem, was arrested following the incident. Lahore's police say that Parveen was killed after they arrived at the scene, though the husband claims that the police stood by during the attack and did not prevent it.

"We were shouting for help, but nobody listened. One of my relatives took off his clothes to capture police attention but they didn't intervene," Iqbal said.

Another unnamed witness also said that the police simply stood by while the pregnant woman was being stoned.

"Policemen were standing outside the High Court, but no policeman came forward. In spite of the noise, no policeman took the trouble of coming forward to save her," the witness said, according to Reuters.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has urged Pakistan's government to take action, saying that he was "deeply shocked" by the incident.

"This murder has appalled Pakistan's small but vocal civil society. Social media activists took to Twitter and Facebook to express their shock. English-language newspapers have published strongly-worded editorials to denounce the brutal crime," BBC News' Shahzeb Jillani noted.

"But all that is in sharp contrast to the muted reaction in the mainstream Urdu language media which, instead, chose to focus on political and security-related stories."

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