No pardon for brother who killed Qandeel: parents

Published October 12, 2016
Anwar Bibi (R) mother and Mohammad Azeem, father of Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, give an interview to AFP in Muzaffargarh.
Anwar Bibi (R) mother and Mohammad Azeem, father of Pakistani social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, give an interview to AFP in Muzaffargarh.

ISLAMABAD: The father of murdered social media star Qandeel Baloch has again vowed no forgiveness for his son, who killed his daughter on the pretext of “honour”.

Parliament had last week passed the long-awaited legislation aimed at closing loopholes which allowed murderers like Ms Baloch’s brother Waseem to walk free. Hundreds of women are killed in “defence of family honour” in the country every year.

Rights activists, who for years called for tougher laws to tackle violence against women, have praised the move as a step forward though lawyers have criticised the amendments for not going far enough.

“There is no pardon from our side,” Ms Baloch’s father Mohammad Azeem told AFP this weekend, calling for his son and the three men accused with him to be punished “at the earliest” and saying, “they should get life imprisonment or death — I will feel happy.”

Lawyer Safdar Abbas Shah helps Mohammad Azeem, father of Qandeel Baloch, as her mother Anwar Bibi looks on.— AFP
Lawyer Safdar Abbas Shah helps Mohammad Azeem, father of Qandeel Baloch, as her mother Anwar Bibi looks on.— AFP

He and his wife Anwar Bibi said they had been unaware of the change in the law, which came three months after their daughter’s death sparked revulsion in the country and abroad.

Their son, Ms Anwar said, had not understood the repercussions the murder would have.

The death of Ms Baloch, judged by many in the country as infamous for, according to local standards, vulgar selfies and videos, reignited polarising calls for action after her brother admitted killing her.

“I am not embarrassed at all over what I did,” he told media at a defiant press conference in July, calling his sister’s behaviour “intolerable”.

His mother said her son had thought his parents would become the only complainants in the case, which under previous legislation would have allowed him to escape punishment if his family had forgiven him.

Waseem thought he would be imprisoned for just “two to three months and then he will be free. He was not aware that this would become a high-profile case,” Ms Anwar said.

Lawyers told AFP that the wording of the legislation, aimed at mandating a life sentence for honour killings, still left too much up to a judge’s discretion.

“There is a danger that it can be interpreted to mean that this only applies in cases when there is a disagreement over pardon of the killer,” said criminal law professor Abira Ashfaq.

“Unfortunately, the lawmakers have not made it a categorically non-compoundable offence. They have only made the penalties heavier.”

Senior lawyer Anees Jillani said: “if the lawmakers wanted to make life imprisonment compulsory for honour killing, all they had to do was to state the same.”

In practice, Ashfaq added, most such cases were settled by police before they even reached court.

“We need to change the culture ... It will take a few high-profile prosecutions covered by media. The language must also be changed,” the lawyer said.

“We should call it something negative — patriarchal/misogynist crime, rather than ‘honour’ killing, which associates a positive value with this type of crime.”

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2016

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