A Pakistani man who murdered his celebrity sister was freed last week, after a court ruled it was not an “honour killing”, allowing their mother to pardon him under Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan, where a murder victim’s family is able to pardon a convicted killer.
Six years ago, in 2016, Waseem Azeem strangled his sister Fouzia Azeem [known by her stage name Qandeel Baloch] to death. He described her behaviour on social media as “intolerable”.
“The appeal court has acquitted the accused in the case on the grounds of a family settlement and lack of evidence,” Sardar Mehboob, Azeem’s attorney. He further added, “There is nothing left in the case. The convict will be released soon from the prison.”
The siblings’ parents lobbied for his release and their mother, Anwar Bibi, welcomed the court’s decision.
“I am happy over the acquittal of my son, but we are still sad for our daughter’s loss,” she said. “I am thankful to the court, which ordered the release of my son at our request.”
Azeem was arrested in 2016, when he confessed of killing his 26 year old sister because she posted photos which he considered to be “Shameful”. “I was determined either to kill myself or kill her,” he said at the time. “I have no regrets.”
Baloch first received recognition from the media in 2013, when she auditioned for Pakistan Idol. Her audition became popular and she became an internet celebrity. She was one of the top 10 most searched for persons on the internet in Pakistan and both celebrated and criticized for the content of her videos and posts.
“I am an inspiration to those ladies who are treated badly by society,” she once said, acknowledging the storm of vitriol her posts created in some conservative quarters. “I will keep on achieving, and I know you will keep on hating.”
Baloch’s murder at the time drew nationwide condemnation. Also the Pakistan’s Parliament passed an anti-honor killing law, which outlined harsher punishments and partially closed loopholes for some familial pardons. But the change in law has been ineffective to replicate it in reality.
Azeem’s released has triggered uproar among human rights activists, and on social media in the country.
Former Information Minister of Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhary said, “We as a nation should be ashamed of such (legal) system.”
Pakistani lawyer Nighat Dad said she was “shocked and speechless,” tweeting: “This man who confessed of killing Qandeel, his own sister, is a free man today in the same country where Qandeel couldn’t live her life freely.”
According to the global Honor Based Violence Awareness Network, a resource centre, about 1,000 honour killings occur each year in Pakistan. This figure is likely an underestimate. Close relatives generally murder the women for defying orthodox marriage and love rules.
Content writer: Nishant Mishra