The parents of a Pakistani social media star allegedly murdered by her brothers have lost their bid to free their sons. Qandeel Baloch’s parents told the court they forgave Waseem and Aslam Shaheen, who are on trial for the apparent honour killing.
Ms Baloch, 26, was strangled in July 2016, in a murder that shocked Pakistan and the wider world. Her brother Waseem initially confessed, saying she had brought shame on his family, but later changed his plea.
Another six men have been arrested in connection with the killing, while a seventh – believed to be another brother – has absconded. Cases of women being killed for “dishonouring” their family are commonplace in Pakistan. Nearly 1,100 women were killed by relatives in so-called honour killings in 2015, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Many more cases go unreported.
A loophole in the law used to allow perpetrators to avoid punishment because they could seek forgiveness from another family member. But in the wake of Ms Baloch’s death – and the discussion it prompted – that loophole was closed.
However, Ms Baloch’s parents argued that because the change happened after her killing, they should still be able to pardon their sons. Her father, Muhammad Azeem, had originally said he wanted her killers “to get death”, telling BBC Urdu that his son Waseem should be “shot on sight”.
But on Thursday he told the court in Multan, Punjab, that he and his wife had now decided to pardon their sons – but not the other accused – “in the name of Allah”, according to BBC Urdu. The court rejected the plea, entered on Wednesday, saying the case against the two men would continue as planned.
Who was Qandeel Baloch?
Ms Baloch has been dubbed the Kim Kardashian of Pakistan. She had hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, and was reportedly one of the top 10 most searched Pakistani personalities in the year before she died.
She won praise for her fearlessness, for breaking strict social taboos and expressing herself the way she wanted to – even if that meant sharing risqué photographs, or twerking on camera. But this fearlessness also won her enemies and put her in danger in a country that struggles with what it regards as immodest or “badly behaved” women.
Her background alone was enough to shock socially conservative Pakistan. Ms Baloch was born Fouzia Azeem, and came from a poor family in a town about 400km (248 miles) south west of Lahore. After her rise to fame in 2014, it emerged she had been married as a teenager, and had a baby. But her husband, she said later, was a “savage man” who abused her, and she fled with her son.
But unable to support her son financially, she returned him to her husband, who has always denied he treated her badly. According to the Guardian, she never saw the little boy again. It was after this that she was able to reinvent herself as Qandeel Baloch.
But as her star grew, her supporters warned that her behavior could threaten her life. Ms Baloch, however, remained unapologetic, although she had asked the government for protection. “I am facing threats,” she told BBC Urdu. “But I believe that death is preordained – when you are meant to die, you will die.”