Wajiha Swati file photo: Habib Bangash in Rawalpindi’s police custody.
Gulf Today Report
The body of a Pakistani-American woman, who investigators believe was killed by her former husband over a property dispute, was brought to the city of Rawalpindi for further investigation, police said on Sunday.
Wajiha Swati, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, had been missing since she arrived in Pakistan in mid-October to settle issues with her ex-husband, Rizwan Habib Bangash.
Habib was arrested on suspicion of murder last week, said Sajid Kiyani, Rawalpindi’s police chief. He said Habib confessed on Saturday to killing Wajiha Swati after four days of interrogation, and that he killed her the day she arrived in the city.
Wajiha Swati’s body was found in the district of Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, police said.
“Police have exhumed the body from a house in Lakki Marwat’s Peezo area, where the suspect led the police after confessing (to) the murder,” Kiyani said.
Habib’s initial court appearance was set for Monday. He was unable to be reached in custody and it was not immediately clear if he had legal representation.
Police said a complaint was initially filed about Wajiha Swati’s disappearance and during the subsequent investigation US embassy officials contacted police to assist in finding her. It was not immediately clear where Wajiha Swati resided.
Kiyani said Habib managed to convince Wajiha Swati to return to Pakistan. Police believe he picked her at the airport, abducted her and killed her with the help of his father and another man, both of whom were also arrested.
Investigators believe Wajiha Swati was killed by her former husband in a dispute over property.
According to the police, Habib revealed that his father — who has also been arrested on charges of aiding and abetting the murder — had said that “it would cost only Rs50,000 to kill Wajiha.”
Police said that Habib told interrogation officers that he killed his ex-wife Wajiha with “a sharp instrument” and shifted her body to Hangu district of KP province.
They further said that Habib confessed to skilfully hiding Wajiha’s body in a car and taking it to a close relative’s house in Hangu.
The body of Wajiha Swati was exhumed from the Wargher locality of Darra Peezu town in Lakki Marwat district on Saturday.
Local police chief Amir Khan said the body had been buried in a room of the house, owned by Sultan, son of Saeed. He said the house owner was the servant of the suspected killer. He said the police had to dig the concrete floor to disinter the body. “The body was later handed over to the Rawalpindi police,” he claimed.
The investigators further said that the suspect told police that he had planned to seek asylum and citizenship in Poland after the murder, for which he had obtained a passport.
On the other hand, sources within Wajiha Swati’s family have confirmed that her body will be sent to the United States.
According to the sources, Wajiha’s children have refused to bury their mother’s body in Pakistan, due to which the US embassy officials are making arrangements to send the body to New York.
Kiyani said police retrieved the body from a house owned by an employee of Habib.
LHC orders authorities to recover kidnapped Pak-American woman
On Dec.23, the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi Bench’s Justice Raja Shahid Mehmood Abbasi ordered the city police officer to recover Wajiha Swati soon otherwise the court will summon the Inspector General of Police. The court had ordered the police to present her in court after recovering her.
Rawalpindi police arrested Habib and produced him before the judicial magistrate Zaheer Safdar. The court handed over the accused to the police on a four-day physical remand.
According to Human Rights Watch, violence against women and girls — including rape, so-called honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage —remains a serious problem in Pakistan.