Brother and killer of Qandeel Baloch shows no remorse for his crime

Published July 18th, 2016 - 03:00 GMT
Under Pakistan's penal code, honour killings are treated as murder. However, the law states that the family of the victim is allowed to compromise with the killer (who is usually a relative) and get compensation. (File photo)
Under Pakistan's penal code, honour killings are treated as murder. However, the law states that the family of the victim is allowed to compromise with the killer (who is usually a relative) and get compensation. (File photo)

In February, after watching the Oscar-winning documentary by Pakistani Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on the horrors of so-called honour killings, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged his government would take steps to tackle the horrendous problem.

"There is no honour in honour killing. In fact there can be nothing more brutal than engaging in killing and calling it honour," the prime minister had said.

While progress in that direction has been noticeably lacking, incidents of killing in the name of honour have continued to occur regularly.

In the latest incident, over the weekend, 26-year-old Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch became a victim, shocking rights groups and educated elite and attracting international attention.

The brother of slain Pakistani model Baloch on Sunday confessed to strangling her to death in the name of "family honour", because she posted "shameful" pictures on Facebook.

Baloch triggered controversy by posting pictures online taken with a Muslim cleric.

She was found dead on Saturday at her family home in the city of Multan in central Punjab, home province of the prime minister and political heartland of the country.

Police arrested her 30-year-old brother, Waseem Azeem, and presented him before the media in Multan, where he confessed to killing her. He said people had ridiculed him over the photos and he found the embarrassment unbearable.

Azeem said that even though Baloch was the family's main breadwinner, he drugged and then strangled her in her sleep.

Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was buried on Sunday. Police said prosecution will seek the maximum punishment for the murderer.

The murder of the flamboyant woman, whose critics say she went overboard in ignoring social sentiment in a largely conservative society, has fuelled debate between liberals and religious circles.

Nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives who believed they had dishonoured their families, the country's independent Human Rights Commission (HRC) says.

According to a HRC report, 900 more women suffered sexual violence and nearly 800 took, or tried to take, their own lives. In 2014 about 1,000 women died in honour-related attacks and 869 in 2013.

The so-called "honour killings" are often carried out by family members.

Under Pakistan's penal code, honour killings are treated as murder. However, the law states that the family of the victim is allowed to compromise with the killer (who is usually a relative) and get compensation.

Rights bodies have been calling for this law to be changed.

HRC says one reason for the increasing number of honour killings is because the accused are getting away with it, and there is poor prosecution.

Methods of carrying out honour killings vary across the country. In the southern province of Sindh, where it is often referred to as "karo kari", the victim is hacked to death, and often the community is complicit. Among the tribal Pashtun communities in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan in the southwest, where the practice is known as "tur", the victim can be hacked, stabbed, burnt or shot.

In the populous Punjab, the killings — usually by shooting — are more often based on individual decisions and carried out in private. In most cases, husbands, fathers or brothers of the women concerned perpetrate the murders. In some cases, jirgas, or tribal councils, decide that the woman should be killed and send men to execute her.

The victims range from prepubescent girls to grandmothers. They are usually killed on the mere allegation of having engaged in 'illicit' sexual relationships.

Advocates who defend women's rights are also the targets of violence. For example, Hina Jilani, who helped Sarwar pursue a divorce, says she has received numerous death threats.

With growing pressure on the government to act, officials insist that every effort is being made to overcome the problem through effective implantation of laws and augmenting social awareness and abhorrence about the despicable practice.

By Mohsin Ali


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