Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 February 2020

Qandeel Baloch's brother gets life for murder of Pakistani social media star

Muhammad Waseem had admitted to murdering his sister over "intolerable" posts

Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch speaks at a press conference in Lahore on June 28, 2016, weeks before her murder. AP Photo
Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch speaks at a press conference in Lahore on June 28, 2016, weeks before her murder. AP Photo

The brother of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was on Friday convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison in the country's highest-profile "honour killing".

Baloch, who shot to fame for her risque selfies – tame by western standards but considered provocative in conservative Pakistan – was strangled in July 2016.

Her brother Muhammad Waseem was arrested. Days later he told a press conference that he had no remorse over what he did, saying that "of course" he had murdered his sister and that her behaviour had been "intolerable".

His lawyer, Sardar Mehmood, confirmed the long-awaited verdict delivered by a court in the eastern city of Multan but suggested that his client would appeal.

"Inshallah, he will be acquitted by a high court," he said.

Baloch's mother said before the verdict that she hoped her son would be acquitted.

"He is innocent. She was my daughter and he is my son," she said.

Muhammad Waseem, brother of slain Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, is presented to media after his arrest in Multan, Pakistan on July 17, 2016. EPA
Muhammad Waseem, brother of slain Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, is presented to media after his arrest in Multan, Pakistan on July 17, 2016. EPA

Baloch's murder made international headlines and reignited calls for action against so-called "honour killings", in which the victim, usually a woman, is murdered for flouting patriarchal social codes.

Women have been burned, shot, stabbed and strangled for offences such as choosing their own husband or, as in Baloch's case, bringing "shame" on their family.

The killings are usually carried out by a close relative. Under Pakistan's Qisas (blood money) and Diyat (retribution) law, they can then seek forgiveness from a victim's relatives.

Three months after Baloch's murder, parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.

However, whether a murder is defined as a crime of honour is left to the judge's discretion, meaning that killers can theoretically claim a different motive and be eligible for pardon.

In Baloch's case, her parents initially insisted their son would be given no absolution.

But, heartbroken at the thought of losing him also, they changed their minds and said they wanted him to be forgiven.

Amid an international outcry over the killing, the Pakistani state take took the unprecedented step of declaring itself an heir alongside the parents, forcing the case to move ahead.

Social media star Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in July, 2016. Image via Qandeel Baloch
Social media star Qandeel Baloch was killed by her brother in July, 2016. Image via Qandeel Baloch

Some of Baloch's better-known actions included offering to perform a striptease for the Pakistani cricket team, and donning a plunging scarlet dress on Valentine's Day.

She attracted criticism and threats but was perceived by many, including young people, as breaking new ground in a country where presenting yourself as a Kim Kardashian-like figure can be seen as a bold, political act of women's empowerment.

The roots of "honour" killings lie in tribal social norms, which remain prevalent across South Asia and dictate the behaviour of women in particular, although men can be victims too.

Updated: September 27, 2019 12:53 PM

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