Asia

Pakistan teacher's burning death was not a suicide, investigators find

A young teacher in Pakistan who died last month from severe burns did not kill herself, a team of investigators revealed Thursday, suggesting police were trying to silence her family by calling it a suicide.

Relatives of the 19-year-old teacher, Maria Sadaqat, said a team of attackers drenched her in gasoline and lit her on fire because she refused to marry the son of her school's owner.

Police initially arrested the owner and three other people but released them weeks later, saying they determined her death was a suicide.

Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association launched a separate investigation and determined the police officers' findings were "flawed," the BBC reported.

The new investigation did not determine conclusively who may have killed her. However, it found that police may have engaged in "character assassination" against the teacher's family. "The mission strongly feels that flawed investigations encourage crimes against women," the report added, saying such police statements could be to blame for the rise in so-called "honor killings."

Nearly 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan each year for violating conservative norms on love, marriage and public behavior, analysts say. Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim's family to pardon the killer, which often allows those convicted of honor killings to escape punishment.

Sadaqat was babysitting her 5-year-old sister in northeastern Pakistan at the time, according to the Telegraph. She died days later in a hospital on June 1.

Neither the woman's hands nor her feet were burned, which fit her claim that four men held her to the ground as they attacked, Supreme Court Bar President Ali Zafar said. The teacher suffered burns to 85 percent of her body, local media reported.

Earlier this week, the brother of slain Pakistani model Qandeel Baloch confessed to strangling her for "family honor" because she posted "shameful" pictures on Facebook.

Baloch, who had become a social media celebrity in recent months, stirred controversy by posting pictures online taken with a prominent Muslim cleric. She was found dead on Saturday at her family home in the central city of Multan.

Police arrested her brother, Waseem Azeem, and presented him before the media in Multan, where he confessed to killing her. He said people had taunted him over the photos and that he found the social embarrassment unbearable.

"I was determined either to kill myself or kill her," Azeem told The Associated Press as he was being led away.

He said that even though Baloch was the main breadwinner for the family, he slipped her sedatives the night before and then strangled her in her sleep. "Money matters, but family honor is more important," said Azeem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.