MULTAN, July 16 (NIA): Pakistani social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, was killed by her brother in Multan in the Pakistani province of Punjab on Saturday in a desperate bid to shore up “family honor.” It is the latest in a series of “honor killings” which have been mounting in the conservative South Asian country battling rapid changes in cultural and social mores.
The daily Dawn reported that the 26-year-old Qandeel, who was immensely popular for posting risque videos and statements on Facebook, was strangled to death by her brother Waseem. He had been asking her to stop posting such photos and videos on Facebook, police said.
Waseem fled after the murder.
Earlier, TV channels had reported that Qandeel was shot dead by her brother. Police later said that she was “strangled to death” while she was asleep at her Multan residence.
Qandeel was in Multan to visit her parents as her father had been unwell. She spent Eid with her family.
Asked for security
According to Dawn Qandeel had written to the Interior Minister, the Director General of the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) and the Senior Superintendent Police, Islamabad, three weeks ago, asking them to provide her security and requested action against those who made her identification documents public via the social media.
She had said her life is in danger and that she has been receiving threatening phone calls.
Qandeel Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, shot into fame in 2014 through suggestive “selfies” posted on social media. She had thousands of followers.
“Nothing is good in this society. This patriarchal society is bad,” Qandeel had said in a recent interview.
In her last Facebook post, she reiterated her unapologetic approach: “No matter how many times I will be pushed down under… I am a fighter, I will bounce back.”
About herself she said: “Qandeel Baloch [is an] inspiration to ladies who are treated badly… I know you will keep on hating, who cares?”.
She referred to herself as a “one-woman army”.
Earlier this month, Qandeel had released a music video in which she starred with a little known young singer, Aryan Khan. Titled ‘Ban,’ the video touched on Qandeel’s status as a controversial social media icon, and was provocative, given Pakistan’s conservative standards for entertainment, Dawn said.
Spate Of Honor Killings
According to an Associated Press (AP) report dated July 4, 2016, honor killings had been climbing in Pakistan. In 2015, 1,096 women and 88 men were killed in “honor” crimes in Pakistan, said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. In 2014, the number was 1,005 women, including 82 children, up from 869 women a year earlier. The true numbers are believed to be much higher.
“I have killed my daughter. I have saved my honor. She will never shame me again,” shouted Parveen Rafiq of Lahore, from her roof top after murdering her daughter Zeenat for daring to want to marry a non-Rajput boy and spurning her choice of a groom.
In the room below lay the charred body of 18-year-old Zeenat. Neighbors in the narrow alley who saw the smoke and heard screams rushed to Parveen’s home, but the door was bolted from within. Zeenat was dead. Her mother had choked her, and while the girl was still alive she doused with kerosene and set her on fire, AP said.
For months, neighbors said, her mother complained about her two elder daughters, who married men of their own choice.
Zeenat was Parveen’s last chance to save her honor. She planned an arranged marriage for Zeenat with a member of their own social caste, the Rajput, which is said to be descended from kings.
But Zeenat had her heart set on a childhood friend, a 20-year-old motorcycle mechanic named Hassan Khan who lived nearby in their crowded Lahore shantytown.
“We were in love,” Khan said, his voice barely a whisper.
He showed a collection of selfies on his phone that Zeenat had put together to the rhythm of their favorite song, an Urdu pop tune called “You Made Me Your Lover.” As the music played, Zeenat in the photos struck different poses, always smiling, her black hair falling past her shoulders.
She loved taking selfies, music and poetry, he said. She had memorized the Quran and taught it to local children.
In May, they married in a court and Zeenat moved into Khan’s home.
A few days later, Zeenat’s mother and uncle came, begging her to come home, just for a few days. They said they would arrange a proper wedding for her and Khan, which would save their honor by showing neighbors she didn’t elope. Zeenat’s uncle promised she would be safe.
Khan’s elders eventually agreed that Zeenat would go with her mother.
At first, it seemed Zeenat’s mother had accepted their marriage, Khan said.
But on the fourth day, Zeenat called him, afraid. Her mother was yelling at her threateningly.
“I told her to not worry. It was just two more days and she would be back home with me.”
The next morning, she was dead.
Neighboring women all agreed that the mother was driven to kill Zeenat and that she should be let off.
“Daughters are duty-bound to maintain the honor of the family,” Muneeba Bibi told AP. “It’s better to have no children than to have a daughter who brings you shame.”
Zeenat’s killing was “a good lesson for all the girls here to protect the family honor,” she said.
In another case, a mother slit the throat of her pregnant daughter who had married a man she loved. In the city of Abbottabad, a teenage girl who helped a friend elope was tortured, injected with poison and then strapped to the seat of a vehicle and set on fire. A jirga, or council of local elders, ordered her killing as a message to others.
Human rights workers say that the widening generation gap in Pakistan is responsible for these murders. Over the years, more women have been going to school and working outside the home, and social media have helped women raise their voices. The old culture resents the new culture.
More than 70 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under 30, and some are challenging traditions to an unprecedented degree.
“The old order of misogyny and extremism is falling apart, is really crumbling,” Marvi Sermid, a women’s rights activist ,told AP.
According to sociologists, centuries of tradition in Pakistan tie the idea of a woman as an untouched commodity to a family’s honor. Traditions have been further strengthened by governments that often curried the support of religious hard-liners with legislation enshrining the old ways, the report notes.
Declared Un-Islamic But To No Effect
Those who kill for “honor” are almost never punished in Pakistan, AP notes.
“A law based on Islamic Shariah allows the family of a victim to forgive a killer, and in these cases the killers are almost always family. So other relatives give their forgiveness, unwilling to see loved ones jailed,” the report says.
Still, outrage over recent killings and other violence against women has fueled an outcry against the establishment. One target has been the Council of Islamic Ideology, a body of conservative Muslim clerics that advises the government to ensure laws don’t stray from Shariah.
When the government proposed a law aimed at protecting women against violence, the council in May put forward an alternative allowing men to “lightly beat” their wives, AP reported.
Young people replied with a Twitter campaign with the mocking hashtag #TryBeatingMeLightly. On TV talk shows, guests denounced the council as misogynist and out of touch. Some lawmakers called for it to be disbanded.
The outcry appears to be having an effect. The council in June decreed that honor killings are “un-Islamic”.
Meanwhile, police and prosecutors found a way around the “forgiveness loophole.” Parveen Rafiq and one of her sons suspected to have helped in Zeenat’s killing, were detained under the anti-terrorism law, which defines any act that causes general panic as “terrorism”.