On Monday, a Pakistani court ruled a man who killed his sister, a social media star, in what he claimed was an “honor killing,” could be set free.
In 2016, Waseem Azeem secretly gave his sister, Qandeel Baloch, (born Fauzia Azeem) then 26, a sedative and then strangled her, as he later admitted. Azeem was sentenced to life in prison in 2019, but on Monday a court ruled he could be released after his parents granted him forgiveness, saying that because his parents forgave him for murdering his sister, Islamic law ruled he must be released.
Sardar Mehboob, Azeem’s attorney told The Washington Post, “The appeal court has acquitted the accused in the case on the grounds of a family settlement and lack of evidence….There is nothing left in the case. The convict will be released soon from the prison.”
Baloch had auditioned for “Pakistan Idol” and been rejected, but a video of her reaction went viral. The Post reported, “She leveraged her brief moment of social media fame to attract thousands of fans to her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, where she regularly posted pictures and videos of herself, some deemed provocative in Pakistan, which led to online trolling and abuse.”
After he confessed to murdering his sister, Azeem said, “I was determined either to kill myself or kill her…I have no regrets. … Money matters, but family honor is more important.”
Azeem’s mother, Anwar Bibi, said, I am happy over the acquittal of my son, but we are still sad for our daughter’s loss….I am thankful to the court, which ordered the release of my son at our request,” according to the Associated Press.
In 2016, the Pakistani Parliament unanimously approved anti-honor killing and anti-rape bills; if a killer received a death sentence, relatives of the victim could pardon the killer but there would still be a mandatory life sentence of twelve-and-a-half years.
The Post took note of those who harshly criticized the court’s decision:
Pakistani human rights activist Usama Khilji: “What message does this give to men & women in Pakistan? Men can kill with impunity. Women aren’t safe even in their own homes; & the law won’t protect them.”
Waseem proudly confessed to killing his sister #QandeelBaloch for “honour”.
Waseem has been acquitted by Lahore High Court.
What message does this give to men & women in Pakistan?
Men can kill with impunity.
Women aren’t safe even in their own homes; & the law won’t protect them pic.twitter.com/LH2BPG8r5R
— Usama Khilji (@UsamaKhilji) February 14, 2022
Pakistani lawyer Nighat Dad:
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 & was honor killed for the choices she made as a free citizen of this country…This acquittal has happened even when law was amended followed by Qandeel’s cold blooded murder and state vowed to become party in the case. This is the sorry state of not so sorry State…we are sorry Qandeel. Shocked and speechless.
This acquittal has happened even when law was amended followed by Qandeel’s cold blooded murder and state vowed to become party in the case. This is the sorry state of not so sorry State…we are sorry Qandeel. Shocked and speechless. #QandeelBaloch
— Nighat Dad (@nighatdad) February 14, 2022
Saroop Ijaz, senior counsel Asia for Human Rights Watch, told The Post, “Many people thought that Qandeel’s killing and the attention it received would be a watershed moment in how Pakistani justice system treats ‘honor’ killings, however it is clear that there is still a long way to go. … Sadly, it is a distinct possibility that more ‘honor’ killings would happen in Pakistan unless the authorities urgently and robustly undertake the efforts at legal, social and political reforms.”
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