Police have ruled out the possibility that Pakistani model and social media star Qandeel Baloch’s brother, who murdered her on July 15, can evade punishment for the crime under a sharia-inspired law that allows victims’ family members to forgive killers.
A reportedly unrepentant Waseem Azeem, 25 — Baloch’s younger brother — confessed during a press conference to drugging and strangling the 26-year-old while she slept at the family home in the city of Multan, saying he did so because she brought “dishonor” to the family by posting pictures on Facebook that he considered “shameful.”
Under a controversial Pakistani law, a victim’s family is permitted to forgive the killer, which often leads to cases being settled with a payment of “blood money.” This route is frequently used in cases of so-called “honor” killing — where a woman is murdered for breaching patriarchal strictures, for example by marrying a man of her own choosing. According to Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, 1,096 women were killed in this way last year, although cases are likely underreported. An anti-honor killing law is currently pending parliamentary approval.
In Baloch’s case, the police on Monday took the unusual step of becoming the main complainant, removing the option of a settlement within the family, the Guardian reports. Her father, who has reportedly said he wants to pursue justice against Azeem, his son, was the initial complainant.
Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was a controversial figure in Pakistan, where her risqué social media persona riled conservatives. She was recently criticized for openly breaching Ramadan fasting rules, and got a prominent cleric removed from a religious committee by posting selfies with him. Mufti Abdul Qavi, is under investigation over allegations, leveled by members of Baloch’s family, that he incited Azeem to commit the murder, the Guardian reports.