The brother of a social media star known as 'Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian' has been acquitted of her murder in a so-called 'honour killing' less than three years after being convicted.
Qandeel Baloch, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was strangled to death in 2016 with her brother later found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Muhammad Waseem claimed at the time of his sister's death that she had brought shame on their family for challenging traditional views of women.
But less that three years since Waseem's eventual jailing in September 2019, his defence lawyer Sardar Mehboob said on Monday that “he has been fully acquitted” by an appeals court in Multan.
Waseem's release comes after major witnesses retracted their testimony, the attorney explained
The killer never showed remorse for his sister's death, nor did his parents hold it against him.
Waseem explained he ended his self-proclaimed “modern-day feminist” sister's life because her actions online were "intolerable".
Baloch faced a barrage of misogynistic abuse and death threats but defiantly shared content she believed in as she tried to change “the typical orthodox mindset” of people in Pakistan.
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Her murder sent shockwaves across the country, sparking a tightening of laws so killers could not simply be spared of jail because their victim's family forgave them.
A government prosecutor also confirmed the acquittal. He is expected to be released later this week, Agence France-Presse reported.
The siblings’ mum's lawyer Safdar Shah said she had given “her consent” to pardon Waseem but it has not been confirmed that her approval sanctioned Waseem's freedom.
His acquittal has outraged women’s rights campaigners in Pakistan.
Biographer Sanam Maher, who wrote 'A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch', said: “Waseem may now walk free while Qandeel was condemned for stepping outside the bounds of what is deemed ‘acceptable’ behaviour for women in Pakistan.
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“After today’s verdict, we may ask, who killed her?”
Lawyer and activist Nighat Dad said on Twitter: “This man who confessed of killing Qandeel, his own sister, is a free man today in the same country where Qandeel couldn’t live her life freely.
"This is the sorry state of not so sorry State…we are sorry Qandeel. Shocked and speechless."
Three months after the murder, Pakistan’s parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for 'honour killings' yet judges alone can determine what falls under that banner.
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As a result, killers can claim their actions had nothing to do with 'honour' and hope to be pardoned.
Pakistan has a grave track record of violence towards women and hundreds are reported to have been murdered by family members each year.
Perceived damage to 'honour' can include eloping, fraternising with men or any other anything else which goes against the nation's strictly conservative views on maintaining women’s modesty.
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