Qandeel Baloch: Pakistan court frees brother for the killing

Muhammad Waseem was arrested in 2016 after he confessed to killing Qandeel Baloch, 26, for posting what he called ‘shameful’ pictures on Facebook.

Pakistani police officers escort Mohammed Wasim Azeem
Pakistani police officers escort Muhammad Waseem brother of slain model Qandeel Baloch at a court in Multan [File: Asim Tanveer/AP Photo]

A Pakistani appeals court on Monday acquitted the brother of social media star Qandeel Baloch of her murder, a 2016 killing that sparked national outrage and changes in laws covering so-called “honour killings”.

Muhammad Waseem appealed against his 2019 murder conviction and life sentence.

“He has been fully acquitted” by a court in the eastern city of Multan, his lawyer Sardar Mehboob told AFP news agency, without giving further details.

The court order has yet to be made public. A government prosecutor confirmed the acquittal.

His mother had also submitted a statement in the court that she had pardoned him, he added. It was not clear whether the court considered the mother’s statement in its decision.

The main amendment in laws dealing with “honour killings” in the conservative Muslim country was that no one could be set free based solely on a pardon by a family member.

Waseem had admitted in a 2016 media conference organised by police that he strangled his 26-year-old sister due to her social media activities.

Mufti Abdul Qawi, a scholar who was arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder, was later freed as police said they could not establish a link to the murder.

Baloch had posted Facebook posts in which she spoke of trying to change “the typical orthodox mindset” of people in Pakistan. She faced frequent abuse and death threats but continued to post pictures and videos seen as provocative.

She had built a modelling career on the back of her social media fame, but drew ire from many Pakistanis.

Her killing sent shockwaves across Pakistan and triggered an outpouring of grief on social media, spurring the government to tighten laws dealing with men who would kill a close relative in the name of family honour.

Hundreds of women are killed each year in Pakistan by family members over perceived offences to honour, including elopement, fraternisation with men outside marriage or other infractions against conservative Muslim values on female modesty.

A short documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, by Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar in 2016, highlighting the issue of honour killing in the country.

Source: News Agencies