Pakistanis on Qandeel Baloch: The problem is society

Pakistanis express sorrow and anger after social media star is killed by her brother, but some condemn her lifestyle.

Baloch, 26, was found dead in her family home having been strangled by her sibling [Facebook/Qandeel Baloch]

The murder of Pakistani social media sensation, Qandeel Baloch, by her own brother has angered millions of Pakistanis, while others have celebrated her death on account of her rebellious, provocative, and what some considered unIslamic statements in the largely conservative nation.

The 26-year-old was found dead in her family home, having been strangled by her brother, Waseem, who later said he had “no regrets” and killed his famous sister to preserve the family’s “honour”.

READ MORE: Pakistani social media star killed by brother

As in life, Baloch has polarised the nation in her death. Many condemned the killing outright, others said she had it coming, and some said while she should not have been killed, they could understand the brother’s motive.

The media has been blamed for sensationalising the details of her personal life, thus increasing the “shame” factor upon her family, as many called for an anti-honour killing bill to be implemented.

We asked some Pakistanis to share their views:

Mosharraf Zaidi, 40, Islamabad-based analyst

It’s a very sad situation, and an opportunity for men not only in Pakistan, but men everywhere to be introspective about life, culture, humanity, modernity, human agency.

[Mosharaff Zaidi/Al Jazeera]
[Mosharaff Zaidi/Al Jazeera]

People who blame the media don’t understand the media, nor its commercial landscape. A race to the bottom in popular culture will intensify.

Men everywhere need to think about what century they are living in … If you don’t like what’s on TV, turn it off. You don’t like what’s on the channel … flip it. You don’t like a video? Stop watching it. Don’t Google the person you don’t like even more.

Look away from what titillates and enrages. Stop looking directly at it.

Mehmood Ahmed, 49, driver from Azad Kashmir

What her brother has done is completely wrong. If she was my sister, I would have tried to explain to her what she was doing was wrong … I would not have resorted to killing. Killing one person is like killing all of humanity – and that’s wrong. Our religion tells us so. Anyone who commits that crime is a [disbeliever].

[Mehmood Ahmed/Al Jazeera]
[Mehmood Ahmed/Al Jazeera]

After your parents, the most important relationship is with your sister. I have five sisters and when each one was getting married, I asked them if they liked someone they want to marry. I [gave] them a choice.

The media is responsible for blowing the episode with Maulvi Qavi out of proportion. [Before she died, Baloch met with Qavi, a leading cleric, and posted selfies of her sitting on his lap]. There were selfies, videos and they enraged the brother. The brother ought to have thought, this is my sister, she is my honour. Qandeel apologised for the video, so what was the issue? I don’t understand the drama.

People in the family and neighbours like to talk about everything, good, bad or ugly. No one understands the problems someone is going through, and if you leave them be and ignore them, next week they talk about something else.

Arsalan Khan, Assistant Professor at Union College, New York, USA

Baloch’s tragic murder points to a culture of toxic masculinity in Pakistan in which men’s reputations are bound up with their ability to control the bodies and lives of their daughters, sisters, and wives. We think of women as the keepers of family and national honour, and so they are endlessly scrutinised for upholding the values of sexual modesty and propriety, and are relentlessly policed to ensure that they do not transgress those norms.

[Arsalan Khan/Al Jazeera]
[Arsalan Khan/Al Jazeera]

Those who fail or refuse [to uphold values] are mercilessly attacked, as Qandeel was on her social media pages, and where there are verbal attacks, physical violence is sure to follow.

We should also think about how the mass media may have contributed to this particular murder. In his statement to police, Qandeel’s brother says he killed her because she brought shame to him and his family … It’s important to remember that Qandeel’s murder happened only a few days after the Pakistani media disclosed her true identity, an identity that she clearly went to great lengths to hide.

While it’s impossible to know precisely how this contributed to her murder, it was an incredibly irresponsible act on the part of the Pakistani media.

Qasim Nagori, 30, graphic designer from Karachi

I was not a fan of her antics, didn’t like her page or follow her doings, but I feel so bad for how she was treated.

[Qasim Nagori/Al Jazeera]
[Qasim Nagori/Al Jazeera]

I didn’t understand why she did dirty videos and photos – I feel it was cheap publicity to get famous and that never lasts, and doesn’t take you anywhere.

Neighbours, extended family members .. it’s those very people that suffocate the family, taunt them, isolate them and jeer at them. That makes someone so angry that they lash out in the most primal form.

The brother is guilt-free because he must feel relieved, because people around him must have made his life hell. The problem is the society.

Nauman Babri, 36, member of the Tablighi Jamaat from Lahore

Islam doesn’t allow you kill anyone. If this society were 100 percent Islamic Sharia-based, then the killing could be justified if many warnings were given, and if she didn’t rectify her behaviour.

[Nauman Babri/[Al Jazeera]
[Nauman Babri/[Al Jazeera]

It really would be the last resort and even then, you are not allowed to kill a human being.

If there was Islamic law, then zina [the death penalty for extramarital relations] and other Islamic jurisprudence would be applicable.

Is the brother’s punishment justified? It is, and he should be punished. If it were Islamic law, it would be blood for blood. [Al Jazeera asks: Are women allowed to make their own decisions?] Fathers and husbands are the custodians of women.

Shamayel Tareen, actor from Balochistan

Baloch was a living example that women in Pakistan are not free.

Being a strong and independent woman can get you killed, whatever profession you are in.

[Shamayel Tareen/Al Jazeera]
[Shamayel Tareen/Al Jazeera]

I do not stand by Qandeel’s behaviour that was in her videos and pictures but I avoided going through her [Facebook] page.

We are no one to judge.

Everyone has been given a mind and free will to choose the path they walk on.

It’s so painful to see someone so innocent go. She’s innocent because she didn’t harm anyone, but yet we found a way to harm her.

Saad Rasool, lawyer based in Lahore with a masters from Harvard Law School

The most important thing to realise is that this [honour killing] is only a cultural name.

[Saad Rasool/Al Jazeera]
[Saad Rasool/Al Jazeera]

There is no such thing, none whatsoever, in Pakistani law. There is no justification of murder in Pakistan’s superior courts in terms of honour killing, and there is no specific provision either in the Sharia courts or the Sharia law, as applied in Pakistan, that justifies honour to be a justification for killing.  

The case has to be dealt with under Pakistan’s Penal Code Provision of 1860, and the provisions relating to murder would be the provisions that apply to this particular case.

Pakistan’s law as informed by the Islamic practices allows the family of the deceased under certain circumstances to forgive the accused murderer. In this case, Qandeel’s parents can forgive their own son – in such a case, Pakistani law says the courts and state will have to make a decision if the family forgives.

This [case] would be an opportunity for Pakistan’s courts to [make an example of the case to show that] a crime particularly of this nature is a crime against society, and society must have its law followed to the logical conclusion, even if the family forgives the accused.

Mehreen Shamsi, Australia-based finance worker, originally from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The term honour killing is extremely incomplete and yet extremely explicit in the context that it is used in, if that’s possible.

[Mehreen Shamsi/Al Jazeera]
[Mehreen Shamsi/Al Jazeera]

It’s very much like the term “act of terror”. Both have been used for a very specific part of the world, for its specific cultures, religions, traditions and more so for extremist factions of illiterate groups, as I would call them, as they carry out these activities.

Both terms are [about] upholding values, guarding the social fabric, and honouring religious duty.

Honour killing, therefore, assumes that everything wrong in society will be fixed by taking a life – mostly taking the life of a woman.

It may be in that most cases of violence against women are based on the term honour. When the result is the death of a woman, the man feels he has resolved all problems.

Follow Alia Chughtai on Twitter: @aliachughtai

Source: Al Jazeera