The brother of a controversial Pakistani social media star has been arrested for her murder, confessing he strangled Qandeel Baloch for “honour”, police said Sunday.
The killing of Baloch, infamous for selfies and videos that by Western standards would appear tame but were polarising in deeply conservative Muslim Pakistan, has sent a wave of shock and revulsion through the country.
Her brother Muhammad Wasim was arrested late Saturday, Multan City police chief Azhar Akram told AFP.
“Wasim confessed to his crime, saying he killed his sister for honour after her recent objectionable videos, mostly posted on Facebook,” he said.
Wasim told police he drugged his sister and then strangled her.
Baloch, believed to be in her twenties and whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, rose to fame for her provocative Facebook posts that saw her praised by some for breaking social taboos but condemned by conservatives.
She was killed on Friday night at her family’s home near Multan. Wasim went on the run and was arrested late Saturday in neighbouring Muzaffargarh district.
In a police complaint, his father accused Wasim of killing Baloch for honour because he “wanted her to quit showbiz”.
Hundreds of women are murdered for “honour” every year in Pakistan.
The killers overwhelmingly walk free because of a law that allows the family of the victim to forgive the murderer — who is often also a relative.
Filmmaker Sharmeemn Obaid-Chinoy, whose documentary on honour killings won an Oscar earlier this year, slammed Baloch’s murder as symptomatic of an “epidemic” of violence against women in Pakistan.
Some of Baloch’s more notorious acts included volunteering to perform a striptease for the Pakistani cricket team, and donning a plunging scarlet dress on Valentine’s Day.
She also posed for selfies with a high-profile mullah in an incident that saw him swiftly rebuked by the country’s religious affairs ministry.
She told local media she had received death threats in the wake of the incident, and that her requests for protection from authorities had been ignored.
Initially dismissed as a Kim Kardashian-like figure, Baloch, whose funeral was held early Sunday near her family home in southern Punjab, was seen by some as empowered in a country where women have fought for their rights for decades.
“Qandeel was an extremely astute individual who knew that what she was doing was more than being the most loved bad girl of Pakistan,” columnist and activist Aisha Sarawari told AFP.
Her killing “defines yet another setback for the women of our generation… This makes it harder for women. Period”.
“Many in Pakistan have laid blame for her death on her bold and provocative public acts, but for me her lifestyle was irrelevant,” said Benazir Jatoi, who works with the Aurat Foundation, a local NGO working on women’s legal and political empowerment.
“Qandeel has put a face to the countless ordinary Pakistani women that are murdered because society has given carte blanche to men,” she added.
“It is not just the law that needs strengthening, it is also social attitude that needs to be reassessed.”