The case of the honor killing of Qandeel Baloch, a model and outspoken feminist who became known as “Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian” before her brother strangled her to death at age 26, will once again have to wait, as regional lawyers are on strike in a nation in which their trade is often dangerous.
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports that lawyers in Multan have gone on strike, leaving no one to argue the honor killing case for either side. Baloch’s brother Waseem confessed to killing his sister in July, despite her status as the only member of the family to generate money, because she had posted suggestive photos of herself online and criticized a well-connected Islamic cleric.
Dawn reports that the court has yet to schedule a new date for the trial and failed to be able to process the case as “six police witnesses were not able to record their statements because of the lawyers strike,” according to a local official.
Pakistan’s attorneys, particularly those involved in prosecuting cases of honor killing and Islam-motivated violence, often become the target of such violence themselves. In August, lawyers in Multan went on strike to protest the government’s inaction in the face of this violence. “Addressing a meeting, Multan High Court Bar Association president Sheikh Jamshed Hayat said that there was no security for the legal fraternity, particularly in the restive areas like Balochistan,” reports Pakistan’s The News.
That strike appears to have been triggered by a suicide bombing targeting lawyers in Quetta, the regional capital of Balochistan, that month. Over 70 individuals were killed in that attack, at least 60 of them lawyers, according to tallies at the time. The bomb targeted an assembly at a hospital to mourn the death of Bilal Anwar Kasi, the head of Balochistan’s Bar Association, who had been assassinated that same day.
Four months later, Al Jazeera reports that the death count was closer to 70 lawyers, and Balochistan’s legal system is in ruins. “The blast has set back Balochistan by 100 years,”Atta Khan Kakar, Kasi’s brother and fellow attorney, told Al Jazeera. “Lawyers with decades of experience, people who would become judges, were all killed. We are a target because we stand to provide justice.”
The Taliban and the Islamic State both took credit for the suicide bombing.
Such attacks have made it far more difficult for relatives of victims of honor killings or Muslim mob attacks to receive justice. In the case of Qandeel Baloch, her family must now wait indefinitely for their day in court.
Baloch rose to internet prominence by posting suggestive images of herself on social media in defiance of traditional Islamic gender norms, which were received with anger in Pakistan and curiosity internationally. In 2016, however, she began to post increasing political and feminist statements on Facebook, decrying the oppression of women in her country. By the time of her final interview, with the newspaper Dawn, Baloch had condemned her family for forcing her to marry an abusive man who had repeatedly threatened to burn her face to prevent her from showing it off.
But before that interview, she met Qavi in a hotel room and took some selfies with him, which she posted online. Following their meeting, Baloch accused Qavi of making sexually suggestive comments to her and drinking soda, a violation of his responsibility to fast during Ramadan. Qavi was demoted from his political position and, according to Baloch’s mother, encouraged her siblings to kill her in revenge.
Baloch had appealed to Pakistani law enforcement for protection after her meeting with Qavi, stating online that she had received death threats.
“I am proud of what I did. I drugged her first, then I killed her,” Waseem Baloch said shortly after killing his sister. “Girls are born to stay home and follow traditions. My sister never did that.”
“I planned this after her scandal with the mufti and was waiting for the right time,” he admitted.