Crime & Justice

Pakistan appeals against brother’s acquittal in social media star’s murder

Islamabad, March 17 (EFE).- Pakistan’s Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari said on Thursday that the state has filed an appeal in the country’s top court against the acquittal of the brother of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch for her murder in a lower court verdict last month.

Baloch was allegedly strangled to death in 2016 by her brother Muhammad Waseem, who confessed to strangling her in a press conference arranged by police for “bringing shame” to the family in a case that grabbed headlines in the Islamic country, where women often face persecution for going against conservative values.

Waseem was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019, but was acquitted last month by the Multan (southern Punjab) bench of the Lahore High Court after his mother “pardoned” her son.

“State has filed an appeal against the acquittal in Qandeel Baloch case,” Bokhari tweeted, adding that in this case Supreme Court has an opportunity to set a precedent for such “brutal murders.”

The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan “continues to stand for protection of rights of women & girls,” she insisted.

Baloch’s killing sent shockwaves in the south Asian nation of 220 million people and led to changes to the country’s laws covering the so-called “honor killings.”

Following the Baloch murder, the government approved a law in Oct. 2016 against honor killings whereby family pardons were done away with, a legal loophole under which many men were freed after killing a woman, usually a sister or a wife.

The law also established a mandatory 25-year prison sentence for those found guilty as well as the creation of fast-track courts to speed up hearings.

However, Waseem’s lawyer Sardar Mehboob has argued that the new law does not apply in Baloch’s case as it was amended after the murder.

He told EFE on Thursday that even though the High Court did not mention this point in its verdict, it had referred to it during the trial proceedings.

“The main point Waseem was acquitted on, as the court said in its order, is that his confessional statement was not taken under due procedure,” the lawyer said.

Qandeel, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, had gained popularity for posting “bold” photographs, videos and comments on social media including Facebook, where she had amassed some 730,000 followers.

The so-called “honor killings” are not uncommon in south Asia and often involve relatives acting over what they consider an insult to family values.

But it is believed that the figure could be much higher due to a lack of complaints and fact that, in many cases, such crimes are committed by close relatives. EFE


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