Arranged marriages are a standard practice in Pakistan, and there's no shortage of stories about the extreme steps some Pakistani women will take to escape them and marry the men they choose.
But few go as far as Aasia Bibi is alleged to have gone. According to Pakistani authorities, the 21-year-old woman tried to slip poison into her new husband's milk and inadvertently killed 18 of his family members in the process.
Bibi, who is charged with murder, appeared in court Tuesday in the northeastern city of Muzaffargarh, where she told reporters that her parents had forced her in September to marry a relative, the Associated Press and ITV reported. Her family lives in nearby Ali Pur, a small village in eastern Pakistan.
"I repeatedly asked my parents not to marry me against my will as my religion, Islam, also allows me to choose the man of my choice for marriage, but my parents rejected all of my pleas," the AP quoted Bibi as saying. She told them she was willing to do anything to get out of the marriage, she added, but they refused to permit a divorce, according to ITV.
Desperate to get out of the arrangement, Bibi went to her boyfriend, Shahid Lashari, who gave her a "poisonous substance," local police chief Sohail Habib Tajak told the AP.
Last week, Tajak said, Bibi mixed the poison in milk and gave it to her husband, but he refused to drink it.
At some point after – and it's not exactly clear how – Bibi's mother-in-law used the tainted milk to make lassi, a yogurt-based drink popular in South Asia. When she served it to 27 members of her extended family, all of them lost consciousness and were hospitalized.
Bibi and Lashari were arrested on murder charges shortly after. Neither had lawyers, the AP reported.
Seventeen of the family members have reportedly died over the past several days, including one young girl, and the other 10 are still in the hospital.
On Monday, Bibi denied the allegations against her, saying Lashari told her to poison the milk but she refused.
But in Tuesday's court hearing, Bibi told reporters that she had in fact targeted her husband and regretted that others had died, according to the AP. Her boyfriend, she said, "asked me to mix it in something" and give it to the husband. he "said he will marry me," she told a judge, according to ITV.
Tajak said he spent two weeks questioning Bibi and Lashari trying to find out who was responsible. Lashari had confessed to giving the young woman the poison, he said.
"Our officers have made progress by arresting a woman and her lover in connection with this murder case, which was complicated and challenging for us," Tajak told the AP.