Qandeel Baloch was drugged and strangled by her brother because he perceived her actions to be dishonorable and un-Islamic. He felt entitled to kill her. In some ways, it was a typical instance of the more than 500 "honor killings" of women in Pakistan every year. Infractions against conservative values can be life threatening for women across South Asia.
But because of Qandeel Baloch's celebrity — her appearances of reality TV shows, her Instagram account with almost 70,000 followers, her Facebook page with more than 10 times that — this death was different. The 26-year-old had used her very public images and appearances to say what was on her mind, to strut her stuff, to be herself. She was coy, risqué, overtly sexy.
In a small, judicial way, it now appears her death, unlike so many before it, may not be totally in vain. The politically influential daughter of Pakistan's prime minister, Maryam Sharif, said on Tuesday that her father's party would introduce legislation by next week to close a legal loophole allowing family members of honor killers to pardon them. Honor killings are considered murder in Pakistani law, but the forgiveness clause can let the accused off the hook if the rest of his family sympathizes with him.
"We have finalized the draft law in the light of negotiations," she told Reuters in an interview. "The final draft will be presented to a committee of joint session of parliament on July 21 for consideration and approval."
Pakistan's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, told Reuters that it would not argue against the bill. But other influential Islamic advisory bodies indicated their disapproval of the move.
"Islamic law and the Koran say that the right to forgive or punish lies first and foremost with the victim's family," said Inam Ullah, spokesman for the Council on Islamic Ideology, a government advisory body. "So if this bill is trying to completely take away that right from the family, then of course that is against Islamic teachings. The state cannot completely take away that right from the family."
Baloch's family wouldn't have been able to pardon her brother, Waseem, because the government of the state of Punjab where she lived took a rare move. It made the state a complainant in the case, which closes the family forgiveness loophole for prosecution.
Through modeling, Baloch earned the money on which her family subsisted. In a confession statement to police, her brother said, "Money matters, but family honor is more important."
The particular incident that led to Waseem's rage involved selfies that Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, took with a religious cleric named Mufti Abdul Qavi in a hotel room. In one, she wears Qavi's karakul, a fur-lined cap. He doesn't seem perturbed. They actually look like they're having a good time.
After the pictures came out, Qavi maintained that she had visited him so that he could impart Islamic wisdom upon her. After her death, Qavi said that she should serve as an example to others who might try to malign righteous clerics.