Qandeel Baloch’s ‘honour’ killing: A test case for Pakistan’s judicial system

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Civil society rejects apology granted by Qandeel’s parents to her murderer brothers

Zubair Qureshi

Pakistan’s social media star and a role-model for youth in her own right Qandeel Baloch’s murder (took place on July 15, 2016) in the name of honour allegedly by her real brothers has become a test case for Pakistan’s judicial system as her parents have backed out of their previous statement implicating their sons behind her murder. She was only 26 when she was murdered.Qandeel’s parents have submitted an affidavit in a trial court of Multan court seeking their sons’ acquittal on the basis that they had forgiven the killers and the case against their sons should be thrown out.
Qandeel Baloch’s name shot to fame after her bold statements, selfies and posts with and about well-known political and religious figures of the country made headlines in media.Pakistani society was divided in its reaction to Qandeel Baloch’s posts.
For some she was a ‘spoiled kid’ and wad doing all that for cheap publicity but for many she was a free soul who represented millions of Pakistani struggling youths, particularly young women who wanted some outlet to express their feelings without any fear.
Hailing from southern Punjab’s backward district, Qandeel Baloch was like fresh air in the suffocating atmosphere prevailing there where little opportunities exist for the womenfolk to find themselves. However, going against the patriarchic values system is not easy and it cost Qandeel’s life.
Her brother Waseem strangled her to death in the name of “honour” at their house in Muzaffargarh District where she had gone to see her ailing parents.
He later confessed to have killed her because she allegedly “brought dishonour to the traditional Baloch clan”. Her brother Aslam Shaheen was also nominated in the case.Her parents nominated their sons in the murder of Qandeel Baloch but last month in an affidavit, submitted in a model court of Multan, they stated that they had forgiven her alleged murderers and asked the court to acquit them.
According to the affidavit the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Criminal Amendment Bill) 2015 — which prevents killers from walking free after being pardoned by the victim’s family — was passed months after Baloch was murdered and, therefore, cannot be applied to her case.
The legislation mandates life imprisonment for honour killings, but whether a murder can be defined as a crime of honour is left to the judge’s discretion.
The affidavit says that the allegations that Baloch was killed for “honour” were “contrary to facts” and asked the court to acquit the suspects under Section 345 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.Civil society of Pakistan and Human rights particularly, women rights activists have taken strong exception to Qandeel Baloch’s move seeking forgiveness for their ‘murderer sons.’
Chairperson of National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) Mrs Khawar Mumtaz while responding to a question how she saw her case and whether Qandeel’s murderers will be set free said, “Their case is weak as they are the complainants in the case. They had given statements in court accusing their son. A lot depends on how prosecutor argues and is allowed to argue.”
Tahira Abdullah a vocal activist and ‘defender of human rights’, said, “We reject the stance of the parents of the murdered victim, as they are too poor and too illiterate to understand the implications of their acts in accepting a compromise settlement.”
We want to know what factors and pressure caused them to change their earlier stance so radically, and by whom, said she. Tahira Abdullah demanded of the judiciary to strictly implement the 2016 amended and strengthened version of the Anti-”Honour” killing law (2004). The 2016 version of the 2004 law takes the decision out of the hands of the next of kin, heirs of the victim and “diyat” (Islamic system of head money) loopholes, she further said.

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