Pakistani man sentenced to die for killing ex-wife from US


ISLAMABAD — The ex-husband of a Pakistani-American woman was found guilty of murdering her in a property dispute by a Pakistani court on Saturday and sentenced to death.

The Rawalpindi District Court also sentenced Rizwan Habib’s father and an employee to seven years in prison for being an accessory to the murder of 47-year-old Wajiha Swati, a lawyer said. The court acquitted three other suspects for lack of evidence.

Shabnam Naz, the victim’s lawyer, said Judge Muhammad Afzal Majuka announced the results of the year-long trial in open court. Naz said Habib was sentenced to death last October for the murder of his ex-wife. He was also found guilty of kidnapping Swati and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Swati had traveled to Pakistan to take possession of the former couple’s home in a posh neighborhood in Rawalpindi. The lawyer said that after he killed Swati in the disputed house, Habib and his accomplices took the body to Habib’s house in Khyber Patunkwa province and buried it there.

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

Habib’s father and another relative were each sentenced to seven years in prison for aiding and abetting kidnapping and murder. Three other suspects – employees of Habib – were acquitted due to insufficient evidence, Naz said.

Defense attorney Talat Mahmood Zaid, who represented Habib and the other suspects, said he would appeal the conviction and conviction in a higher court.

Swati, the mother of three sons, arrived in Pakistan on October 16, 2021 to claim the former couple’s home in Rawalpindi but disappeared. She and Habib had been divorced in November 2020 and Swati lived in Columbus, Ohio and later bought a home in New York, her attorney said.

Swati’s son, Abdullah Mahdi, lodged a complaint with the police after his calls to his mother in Pakistan went unanswered. During a subsequent investigation, US embassy officials contacted local police for help locating Swati. Police questioned Habib who the last person she saw was at the airport upon her arrival.

Habib later confessed that he kidnapped Swati at the airport and killed him the next day. He told investigators he buried Swati’s body at his home in Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Patunkwa province. Habib then led the police to the scene of the crime, where they exhumed Swati’s body in December.

“For me, this evil man planned the whole game after he approached Wajiha Swati, who was about 15 years his senior,” said Naz, the attorney.

According to Human Rights Watch, violence against women and girls – including rape, so-called honor killings, acid attacks, domestic violence and forced marriage – remains a serious problem in Pakistan. Male relatives generally deprive women of their inheritance rights granted by religious and state laws.

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