How CIA blood money led to family killing in Pakistan
Man suspected of shooting wife and daughter dead linked to US payout for Raymond Davis killings
How CIA blood money led to family killing in Pakistan | World news | guardian.co.uk
Jon Boone in Lahore
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 May 2012 07.50 EDT
Relative holds a picture of Faizan Haider, a 21-year-old Pakistani killed by CIA agent Raymond Davis
A relative holds a picture of Faizan Haider, a 21-year-old Pakistani man whose family received a payout after he was killed by CIA contractor Raymond Davis. Photograph: Declan Walsh for the Guardian
In a neighbourhood where houses can cost up to £70,000, Shehzad Butt and his family stuck out from the moment they moved in. Unlike the privately educated children who spoke flawless English with American accents, Butt's seven children spoke only Urdu. Butt himself – a former mechanic living alongside doctors and lawyers – would occasionally startle the Johar Town neighbourhood, in the south of Lahore, by climbing on to his roof and firing guns into the air.
But one thing the Butts did have in common with their genteel neighbours was money: a six-figure sum settled with the family when Butt's son-in-law, Faizan Haider, was gunned down along with another man by a CIA contractor called Raymond Davis last year.
The money helped the Butts resettle, but, according to people who know the family, it ultimately destroyed them. Last month Butt's wife, Nabeela, and his widowed daughter, Zohra Haider, were shot dead. Police suspect Butt killed the two women after a domestic row. He is believed to be on the run.
Relatives and the police all say the family's misfortune stemmed from the compensation. The two families were reportedly paid 200m rupees, $2.22m, with around $250,000 going to the two widows. It, transformed the lives of Ms Haider's parents and siblings when she returned to live with her family after her husband's death.
"These people were low-status, both financially and in terms of caste," said Asad Manzoor Butt, the family's former lawyer. "They had no idea how to cope with that sort of money."
Shehzad Butt, 55, who had been working for decades in the Gulf as a mechanic, returned to Lahore, invested in a small car dealership and moved his family from their old home on the grimy industrial fringes of Lahore. Where Johar Town is airy and green, their old neighbourhood of Ferozewala is a world of gloomy, narrow streets packed with rundown shops and overcrowded houses.
"If we hadn't been forced into taking the money we would never be in this position," said his nephew Mahzar Butt, sitting amid the gloom of a power cut in a cramped room in the family's original home. "Zohra wanted justice, not money. The money led to disintegration within our family."
Butt and his wife were said to have been fighting for weeks over the remarriage of their wealthy daughter, who had an infant son. Butt wanted one of his relatives to be her new husband but his wife preferred a man from her own family – a 45-year-old who lived in Dubai. Meanwhile, the parents of her dead husband wanted her to marry one of their other sons.
"Zohra controlled a lot of blood money that was in her name," said Khalid Farooqi, the police inspector investigating the incident. "If she agreed to marry someone on her mother's side the money would go there and her father would lose control over it. Perhaps he wanted to use it for some investment."
Farooqi says domestic disputes leading to killings are not uncommon in Pakistan, "but not in these nice areas, only in the townships and poor localities".
It was claimed that the daughter's in-laws once turned up at the house in Johar Town to make their case for marriage, prompting a row. Fear of the in-laws was the reason why Butt kept weapons in the house, claimed Sheikh Asif, a childhood friend.
He also said Ms Haider's fortune destroyed Butt's once unchallenged position within the household. "He worked hard to support them, day and night, sending money back from the Gulf," he said. "But then suddenly he was no one to them and they were out of his control."
After the Davis shootout in Lahore, which the American claimed was an act of self-defence, the family came under enormous pressure to accept a blood-money payment that would let Davis go free, as allowed by Pakistani law. Barack Obama publicly insisted Davis was covered by diplomatic immunity and should be released, something the Pakistani government could not countenance, given public outrage and widespread anti-American feeling.
Manzoor Butt said he was thrown off the case and the family were bullied into making a decision by the "agencies". "The family were told they could not stop this man from being released," he said. "Either they take the money and Davis goes home, or Davis goes home anyway and you get nothing."
When the family relented they saved the government from the embarrassment of freeing Davis but became an object of public scorn. "Initially there was so much sympathy for them that they received financial support from the public to help fight the case," said the lawyer. "Taking the money was a shameful thing for them to do and put them in some danger."
Unsurprisingly the family kept the story a closely guarded secret when they moved into Johar Town.
The Butts have probably not had their last brush with blood money payments, which critics say encourage grisly crimes and the police to act as compensation brokers. If Butt is arrested and found to have killed his wife and daughter, his son Haider will have to decide whether to declare him forgiven, allowing him to escape punishment. "Right now the children are really angry," said Sheikh Asif. "Shehzad killed their mother and sister and they want to see him behind bars. But when Haider's emotions have gone down and he sees his father has repented, then he will be ready to forgive him."
To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway
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