Pakistani man sentenced to death for murdering US ex-wife

ISLAMABAD — The ex-husband of an American woman from Pakistan was sentenced to death on Saturday by a Pakistani court after being found guilty of killing her as part of a property dispute.

A district court in Rawalpindi has sentenced Rizwan Habib’s father and employee to seven years in prison for facilitating the murder of 47-year-old Waziha Swati, a lawyer said. The court acquitted his three other suspects for lack of evidence.

Victim’s attorney Shabnam Naz said Judge Muhammad Afzal Majuka announced the results of the year-long trial in open court. Naz said Khabib was sentenced to death for murdering his ex-wife last October. He was also convicted of kidnapping a Swati man and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Swati had traveled to Pakistan to acquire the former couple’s house in the upmarket district of Rawalpindi. Lawyers said that after killing Swati in the disputed house, Habib and his accomplices took the body to Habib’s house in Khyber Patunkhwa and buried him there.

Naz said Habib illegally transferred ownership of the Rawalpindi family to his mother.

Habib’s father and another relative were each sentenced to seven years in prison for facilitating the kidnapping and murder. His three other suspects, Habib employees, were acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence, he said.

Talat Mahmoud Zayed, the attorney who defended Habib and the other suspects, said he would appeal the conviction and sentence to a higher court.

Swati, a mother of three sons, arrived in Pakistan on 16 October 2021 and claimed the former couple’s home in Rawalpindi, but has disappeared. She and Habib divorced in November 2020, Swati lives in Columbus, Ohio, and she later purchased a home in New York, her attorney said.

Swati’s son, Abdullah Mahdi, filed a complaint with the police after calls to his mother in Pakistan went unanswered. I asked for help finding Swati. Police questioned Khabib, the last person to see her at the airport where she arrived.

Habib later confessed to kidnapping Swati at the airport and killing her the next day. Habib then led police to the crime scene and exhumed Swati’s body in December.

“For me, this evil man planned this whole game after he approached Waziha Swati, who is about 15 years older than him,” said attorney Naz.

Violence against women and girls, including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriages, remains a serious problem in Pakistan, Human Rights Watch said. Male relatives generally deprive women of inheritance rights granted by religious and state law.

Rights activists say the desire for property is often the motive for murders involving women in this conservative society.

Zarah Khan

Associated Press