Justice Served as Muslim Attacker Is Sentenced to Life in Prison in Pakistan for Intentionally Killing Christian Woman
A trial court in Islamabad, Pakistan, has sentenced a Muslim man to life imprisonment for killing a Christian woman.
Thirty-eight-year-old Najma Parveen, a mother of three, worked two jobs to make ends meet. The family had moved to Islamabad to find work prospects. One of Parveen’s jobs was to cook and clean at an Arab diplomat’s house.
After finishing her work on March 11, 2021, Parveen called her oldest son, Ashwin, and told him that her employer’s driver, Khurram Shahzad, was taking her home. She told Ashwin that they could pick him up on the way home from his workplace. After waiting for about 30 minutes and not being able to reach his mother on the phone, Ashwin went home. Thinking that his mother might have been delayed at work and her cell phone’s battery might have died, he went to bed.
When he awoke in the morning, his mother was not there. He began calling her cell phone, but it was still off. Ashwin contacted his relatives, but they had not heard from Parveen either.
Ashwin began searching for his mother at different hospitals without success. He then went to the police and told them his mother was missing, and the police filed a missing person’s report.
On March 24, 2021, after finding out from Ashwin that the last person his mother was with was Khurram Shahzad, the driver, the police registered a formal complaint against him. The police obtained Parveen’s phone records, confirmed that both Parveen and Khurram were together around the time Ashwin received a call from his mother about picking him up. The police arrested Khurram.
During the investigation, Khurram confessed that he was going to drop Parveen at her home after work. On the way, they stopped at a restaurant to pick up some food, and he saw that Parveen had about $1,000, which was her three months’ salary. He took a rope from the trunk of the car, strangled her to death, took her money, and buried her in an empty area near his house. Khurram also told the police about the place where he exchanged the U.S. dollars for Pakistani rupees.
On July 30, 2021, the investigating officer called Ashwin, but neither he nor his siblings were prepared for what the officer told him. The officer asked Ashwin to come to the place near Khurram’s house. When Ashwin arrived, the officer told him that Khurram had confessed to killing his mother and burying her body. After obtaining permission from the court, the police went to the location where she was buried to exhume the body and send it for an autopsy.
Ashwin, his uncle, the police, and doctors were present when Parveen’s body was exhumed. The case went to trial, but Ashwin had no resources to hire a lawyer.
With this much evidence and a confession, one may assume that a conviction would be clear. However, that is not always the case in Pakistan, especially where the victim is a Christian. Often a Muslim man who attacks, kills, enslaves, or steals from a Christian can end up going free because the Christian minority victim has no one standing up for his or her rights.
In Pakistan, the State prosecutes criminal offenses, but the aggrieved party is allowed to have its own lawyer to assist the court alongside the prosecutor. The private lawyer is allowed to examine, cross-examine, oppose bail petitions, make statements, etc.—basically, everything the prosecutor does.
Ashwin’s family came to our affiliate, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), in October 2022, and we took up the case. I was in Pakistan in October and met with Ashwin. He was clearly distraught and was going door to door seeking help. I told him that we would do our best to obtain justice for his family, and he was encouraged.
Finally, on March 8, 2023, after five months of hearing testimony by several police officers, the doctors who performed the autopsy, and Ashwin’s testimony, the trial court sentenced Khurram Shahzad to life imprisonment.
When we heard the court’s decision, we called Ashwin to let him know, and he was happy and very thankful. He told us that, in the beginning, he had no hope that justice would be served. But after he went to the court with our team to testify and saw the kind of work we did, he had a glimmer of hope. Ashwin and his siblings are thankful for the support that they received. While we cannot bring their mother back, we hope the court’s decision will provide Ashwin and his family some consolation.
We are grateful to have the support and prayers of so many of you so that we can continue to provide legal assistance to families like Ashwin’s who would not otherwise get the help they deserve.