The brother of a Pakistani social media star, who was murdered in one of the country’s most notorious ‘honour killings’, was acquitted Monday after serving less than six years in prison, lawyers said.
Qandeel Baloch, 26, rose to fame for her defiant messages that flew in the face of the nation’s deeply patriarchal mores before her death in 2016.
Her brother Muhammad Waseem was arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment for strangling her, brazenly telling the press that he did not regret the killing because her behavior was “unbearable”.
“He has been fully acquitted” by a court in the eastern city of Multan, his lawyer Sardar Mehboob told AFP, without giving further details.
The court order has yet to be made public.
The case became the most high-profile ‘honour killing’ in recent years – in which women are given death sentences by male relatives for allegedly bringing ‘shame’ to a family’s reputation.
A recent law change in Pakistan means that offenders can no longer ask for forgiveness from the victim’s family — sometimes their own — and have their sentences commuted.
Whether or not a murder is defined as an honor crime is left to the discretion of the judge, meaning murderers can theoretically claim a different motive and still be pardoned.
In Baloch’s case, her parents initially insisted that their son not receive absolution. But they later changed their mind and said they wanted to forgive him.
A lawyer for the siblings’ mother said she had “given her consent” to pardon him, according to her lawyer Safdar Shah.
He is expected to be released later this week.
“Waseem is now allowed to walk free while Qandeel was convicted of crossing the boundaries of what is considered ‘acceptable’ behavior for women in Pakistan,” biographer Sanam Maher told AFP.
“After today’s verdict, we may wonder who killed her?” she added.
Three months after Baloch’s murder, Pakistan’s parliament passed new legislation requiring life imprisonment for honor killings.