Qandeel Baloch: Brother of murdered social media star jailed

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International desk, September 27: The brother of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch has been jailed for life, three years after her murder.Waseem confessed to strangling Ms Baloch, 26, in July 2016. At the time, he said it was because the star had brought shame on the family, BBC reports.

He was reported to be upset by pictures she had uploaded to social media.

On Friday, a court acquitted all the other men charged in connection with the killing, including religious scholar, Mufti Abdul Qavi.

Ms Baloch’s family had initially pointed the finger at the mufti, saying he had instigated the murder after he was criticised for taking selfies with the social media star a month before her death.

He has always denied any involvement.

Her brother Waseem is able to appeal the sentence.

His parents tried to free him last month, saying they forgave their son for killing their daughter.

Another brother, Arif, has been declared a fugitive in relation to her death, the court said.

Who was Qandeel Baloch?

Qandeel Baloch was Pakistan’s first social media star. She was born Fouzia Azeem, and came from a poor family in a town about 400km (248 miles) south-west of Lahore.

Often dubbed the Kim Kardashian of Pakistan, she had hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. She posted images and videos of herself twerking and singing, breaking strict taboos in socially conservative Pakistan.

As she became popular, she was paid to promote products on her social media accounts and appeared in music videos.

Following her rise to fame in 2014, it emerged that she had been married as a teenager and had a child. But she claimed her husband was a “savage man” who abused her and she fled with her son, residing for some time in a refuge.

However, she was unable to support the baby and returned him to her husband, who has always denied treating her badly.

By 2015, she was named one of the top 10 Googled people in Pakistan.

As she continued uploading controversial posts, she was warned by her digital branding consultant that she was going too far. Junaid Qasi told the Guardian that she refused to listen.

What happened to Qandeel Baloch?

Ms Baloch was invited to meet renowned religious scholar Mufti Abdul Qavi in Karachi during the holy month of Ramadan. She posted selfies with him to her social media accounts. In one image, she is wearing his signature sheepskin cap.

He was criticised for behaving inappropriately by associating with a disreputable woman. He was humiliated and his membership of a religious committee revoked.

Soon after, Ms Baloch was found dead in her bed.

Her brother Waseem said he drugged and then strangled her to death “for dishonouring” the family name.

Another six men were arrested for her killing, while a seventh – believed to be another brother – absconded.

Ms Baloch’s father, Muhammad Azeem, said his daughter had been his “best friend”, but described his son as “crazed”.

Despite this, Ms Baloch’s parents told the court they had decided to pardon their sons.

What is an ‘honour killing’?

It is the killing of a member of family who is perceived to have brought dishonour upon relatives. Campaign group Human Rights Watch says the most common reasons are the victim refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault or rape or having sexual relations outside marriage.

However, killings can be carried out for several other reasons, like dressing inappropriately or being disobedient.

There have been many cases of women being killed for “dishonouring” their family in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded 15,222 honour crimes against men and women between 2004 and 2016.

Women’s rights in Pakistan

According to the World Economic Forum, Pakistan is the second worst country in the world in terms of gender parity. Women hold fewer than 7% of managerial positions.

Early marriage remains a serious issue in Pakistan, with 21% of girls in the country marrying before the age of 18, and 3% marrying before 15.

More than five million primary school age children in Pakistan are not in school, most of them are girls, according to Human Rights Watch.

There were 35,935 female suicides between 2014 and 2016 according to figures by White Ribbon Pakistan.