The mother of Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch has told a national news outlet that her murder was not an honor killing, but a revenge murder planned by her sons after Baloch exposed an influential mufti’s inappropriate behavior, including not keeping the Ramadan fast.
Speaking to Pakistan’s Geo TV, Baloch’s mother asserted that her son was inspired to kill her daughter by Mufti Abdul Qavi, who had been removed from an influential position on a Pakistani Islamic board following his meeting with Baloch.
“She claimed her son Waseem carried out the murder on the advice of Mufti Qavi, and that the cleric provoked him into killing Qandeel. She claimed Waseem was also in contact with Qandeel’s former husband Ashiq Hussain,” the outlet notes.
It adds that Baloch’s mother testified that neighbors had seen “a suspicious bearded stranger” enter their home shortly before the killing. Geo TV does not quote the mother directly or provide her name.
Baloch’s father Mohammad Azeem has filed charges against two of his sons, though son Waseem confessed to drugging and asphyxiating Baloch on his own. “She supported all of us, including my son who killed her,” he told media.
The Pakistani government has also invoked an anti-honor killing law, which makes the state a party to the criminal charges. As the murder is officially a crime against the state, the family cannot forgive the murderers. In Pakistan, if a family forgives a murderer in the case of an honor killing where the party is the only official victim, the state cannot prosecute them.
The state has also announced an investigation into Mufti Qavi following the accusations by Baloch’s mother. He has denied all involvement in the murder.
Last month, Baloch, already well-known for posting selfies online, met Qavi in a hotel room. The resulting selfies became a national sensation. Following their release, however, Baloch told reporters that Qavi had made inappropriate sexual remarks towards her and that he had drank a Coca-Cola in her presence, a violation of Ramadan consumption restrictions. Qavi was removed from Pakistan’s Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, which sights the moon to determine the beginning and end of Islamic months.
Baloch, in turn, received death threats. She sent a letter to Pakistani law enforcement demanding more security following the incident, which went ignored.
Should Waseem Azeem have killed Baloch as revenge for exposing Qavi, the murder would not be an honor killing, but the punishment of a woman for defying an Islamic religious authority. While honor killings are a regular occurrence in Pakistan, they are typically conducted following the violation of a cultural norm, such as marrying outside of one’s class, converting to Christianity, or behaving immodestly.
Baloch’s murder is being widely reported as an honor killing because of her repeated public assertions that she was a “feminist” and that Pakistan’s patriarchal society needed to be challenged. She made her name on Facebook and Instagram posting sexually suggestive photographs and, increasingly, inspirational messages for girls. The photos had garnered her the nickname “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian.”
She had recently appeared in her first-ever music video, and in an interview with the Pakistani newspaper Dawn to promote it, revealed that her family had forced her into an abusive marriage where she had narrowly escaped being the victim of an acid attack.
In his confession, brother Waseem said that he was “proud” of killing her. While he asserted that “girls are born to stay home,” he made clear that Baloch’s encounter with Qavi was “the end of it.” He confessed, “I planned this after her scandal with the mufti and was waiting for the right time.”
“She had been around for a couple of years and no one from her family had a problem with what she was doing,” Pakistani journalist Bina Shah told Canada’s CBC News. “But when the scandal with this Mufti broke out, the mainstream media went and investigated her and found out her real name, aired details of herself, her family.”