After Qandeel: An open letter to ‘honourable’ Pakistanis

Published July 19, 2016
Qandeel was an entertainer second, and an experimentalist first.
Qandeel was an entertainer second, and an experimentalist first.

I trust that by now, every shareef citizen has had their say.

You say Qandeel Baloch was a wicked person, but you're still saddened by her death. Well done, it's nice to know that you're anti-murder. We'll take whatever consolation we can get at this point.

Every makeshift moralist by now has elucidated his/her position on the unmentionable Qandeel; each taking precious time out of his/her blessed schedule of teaching hymns to blind children, and scrubbing sheets at the leper colony, I assume.

What sinner would cast a stone with such unwavering self-assurance?

There’s never been a dearth of respectable men in this country, flocking over to Qandeel Baloch’s Facebook page to comment on how shameful and undignified she was.

What are you doing on her page anyway, I’d often ask in the comment section. Are you lost?

What business do honourable gentlemen like you have in these supposedly sordid and salacious corners of social media? Why are you watching her controversial risqsué dance, aimed at motivating the Pakistani cricket team? Repeatedly.

You don’t get to drink half a bottle of wine, and clear your conscience by spitting at the bartender for serving it to you.

Explore: Qandeel Baloch is dead because we hate women who don't conform

We’ve witnessed no insufficiency of social media users getting in line to psychoanalyse the provocative starlet. She was called an ‘attention-seeker’. She was called ‘nyphomaniacal’. She was called many words that aren’t repeatable.

The word I didn’t get to hear was ‘revolutionist’.

In Pakistan, a person needn’t do much to be part of a social revolution. A ‘revolutionist’ is a woman at a workplace, too busy to freshen up her makeup, and wholly unconcerned about the loose strands of hair spared by her improperly fastened hair band.

A ‘revolutionist’ is a happily unmarried man celebrating his 34th birthday; fully determined to fight through the awkwardness at every social function where people whisper complaints about his bachelor lifestyle.

Qandeel Baloch wasn’t unintelligent. With all my “intelligence”, I could never get three-quarters of a million people to follow me on Facebook as she did. It couldn’t have been her looks alone, for she wasn't the only good-looking person out there.

Qandeel Baloch was a one-woman sexual revolution banging at the door of a repressed social establishment.

She was an entertainer second, and an experimentalist first, picking and prodding at Pakistan's social edifice that has hardly evolved since the country's creation.

She was on a mission to expose two-faced, pseudo-righteous men for who they are; armed with the only real weapon a woman may sometimes afford in an unyielding patriarchal system.

Qandeel, and women like her, enunciate an age where women expect unconditional, unabashed ownership of their own bodies.

It is an era where the body of Qandeel is the body of Qandeel, to be concealed, or exposed at her own volition without affecting anyone's honour.

See: Qandeel taught us to own our sexuality but we couldn't handle it

It’s an epoch where a woman refuses to fit snugly inside a box designed for her by the society; she carves out her own space instead.

And, that’s a terrifying thought.

Qandeel was murdered by one man, but in whose name?

Her homicide was homage to a puritanical society, which implicitly demands such sacrifice.

For the crime of assuming unauthorised command over her own body and lifestyle, she was sentenced to unrelenting slut-shaming by thousands of judges and jurymen on the Internet.

We know the man who murdered his ‘dishonourable’ sister, but who foisted that label upon her and warranted her elimination in the first place?

We say her death was a ‘shock’, as if none of us actually saw the endless stream of death threats and rape threats on her social media pages. Or perhaps, we ignored them all as inevitable background noise.

Now Qandeel’s gone. And suddenly, we all feel rather naked ourselves.

Wear as much clothing as you want; but before the league of civilised nations, we all stand exposed today as one of the few countries in the 21st century where women’s appearances are policed at gun-point, and honour killings remain atrociously rampant.

The world is staring at us. Quick! Cover up.


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