ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain has said Pakistanis should be “ashamed” of a legal system that had acquitted slain social media sensation Qandeel Baloch’s brother, who had confessed to her ‘ honour killing’ and been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019.
Qandeel, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, shot to fame for her suggestive and defiant posts, pictures and videos on social media. She was found dead at her parents’ home in Multan in 2016.
Her brother, Waseem Baloch, was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison in 2019 for strangling her, brazenly telling the press he had no remorse for the murder because her behavior was “intolerable.”
On Monday, the Lahore High Court’s Multan bench struck down the conviction after major witnesses retracted their testimony, Waseem’s lawyer Sardar Mehboob said. His parents had also submitted a statement in the court, pardoning him.
“We as a nation should be ashamed of such a system,” Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the Pakistani information minister, said on Twitter.
The case became the most high-profile “honor killing” of recent years — where women are dealt lethal punishment by male relatives for purportedly bringing “shame” on a family.
A detailed verdict issued by the trial court in 2019 said the prosecution successfully proved its case beyond shadow of reasonable doubt through cogent, convincing and inspiring evidence against the accused for committing qatl-i-amd (willful murder) of his sister Fouzia Azeem alias Qandeel Baloch in shape of proving his presence at the place of occurrence, in shape of judicial confession corroborated with positive results of his DNA, according to a SAMAA TV report.
“He is held guilty of committing qatl-i-amd of his sister,” the verdict read.
At the time, Qandeel’s brother Waseem confessed to having killed her “because she brought dishonor to the Baloch name” with her social media videos and statements.
The court had freed five other suspects, including cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi, Qandeel’s brother Aslam Shaheen, Haq Nawaz, Abdul Basit and Mohammad Zafar Hussain, in the case.
In August 2019, Qandeel’s parents submitted an affidavit in the court, stating they had forgiven the killers and wanted the case against their sons to be disposed of.
The affidavit mentioned that the Anti-Honour Killing Law (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 — which prevents killers from walking free after being pardoned by the victim’s relatives — was passed months after Qandeel was murdered and can, therefore, not be applied to her murder case.