UK family killed in 'arranged marriage row'

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The Independent Online

A British couple and their daughter were gunned down in a graveyard in Pakistan after their son's arranged marriage with a local woman went wrong and sparked a "family dispute".

Mohammad and Pervaze Yousaf and their 22-year-old daughter Tania, from Nelson in Lancashire, were visiting the country for a wedding when they were attacked, according to police.

They were killed in a village in the district of Gujrat in north-east Pakistan in the early hours of yesterday after a row over the relationship between a son of Mr and Mrs Yousaf and a local woman, according to a family friend.

Two of the alleged gunmen were arrested and police were hunting another two suspects in connection with the attack, which left another woman dead.

Family friend Mohammed Iqbal claimed they were killed while paying their respects during a visit to a cemetery.

Mr Iqbal, who sits on Pendle Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, said: "They were leaving the graveyard of someone that had passed away. It was a family dispute that obviously went horribly wrong.

"Mr Yousaf's son was married to a girl from Pakistan and there have been some problems with the marriage and that's the dispute that's happened."

He added that two of Mr Yousaf's sons had returned early to Lancashire from Pakistan but had flown back to the country after being told of the deaths.

He said: "They went for a wedding and a holiday and they are now having to bury members of their family."

Mr Iqbal said he had known taxi driver Mr Yousaf for 20 years and added that the whole family were "devastated".

Mr Iqbal said it was not clear which of Mr Yousaf's sons was involved in the arranged marriage.

Tributes were paid to Tania on a Facebook page set up in her memory by friends.

One of them, Steph Roden wrote: "It's awful that could happen to anyone. She was so innocent and quiet at school. God bless to all the family xxx".

Another, Lisa Dickens, said: "My thoughts are with the family at this awful time!!"

Lancashire police said officers are providing support to family members in Nelson and are working with Pakistani authorities.

A spokesman said: "Lancashire police have been informed of an incident in Pakistan which occurred in the early hours of May 20.

"Three members of a family from Nelson who were visiting the country for a wedding were killed in a shooting incident.

"Officers are speaking with family members in Nelson and they are being offered support at this difficult time."

A spokeswoman added: "It is believed to involve a family dispute and there may have been other people injured as a result of the incident."

The Foreign Office said it is investigating reports of the shooting.

Another family member, Eileen Ansar, said the dispute arose after a marriage breakdown between Mr Yousaf's eldest son and his wife, who she would not name.

Ms Ansar, who is married to Mr Yousaf's cousin Mohammed, said: "There have been tensions since the son and girl separated but the father treated her like his own daughter.

"Most of the family went out to Pakistan for the wedding of his eldest son, Asad, but he and his wife stayed on for a few days after.

"They had gone to a cemetery to pay their respects to those who had passed away since they had last visited the country. Four men approached them and started firing.

"It is an absolute tragedy. You could not meet nicer people, they never did harm to anyone. It has destroyed the family."

Ms Ansar, a councillor in the Clover Hill ward in Nelson, said around 70 members of the extended family flew out to Pakistan following news of the deaths.

Ms Ansar said Mr Yousaf had three sons and three daughters, including Tania.

She said despite the family arguing over an arranged marriage Mr Yousaf had treated his daughter-in-law well.

She added: "He looked after the girl, kept her at his home. She is his sister's daughter, he treated her like his own daughter, he loved her and respected her as his own daughter."

There was no movement today at the family's modern three-bedroom semi-detached home in Nelson.

Three cars were parked on the drive alongside bins which had not been emptied. A sign on the door directed visitors to another address nearby.

It is understood many of the senior family members have already flown back to Pakistan for the funerals.

A statement was read out by local MP Andrew Stephenson outside one of the family homes in Nelson.

Mr Stephenson said: "As their local Member of Parliament I have been asked by the family of Mohammad Yousaf, Pervaze Begum and Tania Yousaf to make a brief statement on their behalf.

"The family are devastated by what has happened and ask for people to respect their mourning whilst they come to terms with these tragic events.

"A number of family members flew to Pakistan late last night to assist with the funeral arrangements.

"This is a tragedy for the family and they hope the media do not speculate over the possible motives behind this senseless killing."

Mr Stephenson added: "The funeral of Tania Yousaf, 22, has taken place. Tania was a very well known and liked member of the community and a former employee of Pendle Borough Council.

"The funeral of Mohammad Yousaf and Pervaze Begum will take place today at 4pm (Pakistan time), 12pm GMT.

"I was in contact with the family yesterday within hours of these tragic events taking place and met with them following my return from Westminster last night.

"I have been in context with Alistair Burt MP, the Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure everything is being done to assist the family at this difficult time.

"We are also working closely with the Pakistani High Commission in London."