The brother of Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch was on Friday convicted for her murder and sentenced to life in prison in the patriarchal country’s highest-profile “honour killing”.
Baloch, who shot to fame for her risque selfies — tame by Western standards, but considered provocative in deeply misogynistic Pakistan — was strangled in July 2016.
Her brother Muhammad Waseem was arrested. Days later he told a press conference that he had no remorse over what he did, saying that “of course” he had murdered his sister and that her behaviour had been “intolerable”.
His lawyer, Sardar Mehmood, told AFP the court in the eastern city of Multan had found his client guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment, in a long-awaited verdict.
“Inshallah (God willing), he will be acquitted by a high court,” he said.
Earlier, Baloch’s mother Anwar Mai told AFP she had hoped her son would be acquitted.
“He is innocent. She was my daughter and he is my son,” she said.
Baloch’s murder made international headlines and reignited calls for action against an epidemic of so-called “honour killings”, in which a victim — usually a woman — is murdered for flouting patriarchal social codes.
Women have been burned, shot, stabbed and strangled for offences such as choosing their own husband or — in Baloch’s case — bringing “shame” on their family by celebrating their sexuality.
The killings are usually carried out by a close relative. Under Pakistan’s Qisas (blood money) and Diyat (retribution) law, they can then seek forgiveness from a victim’s relatives.
Three months after Baloch’s murder, parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.
However, whether a murder is defined as a crime of honour is left to the judge’s discretion, meaning that killers can theoretically claim a different motive and still be pardoned.
In Baloch’s case, her parents initially insisted their son would be given no absolution.
But, heartbroken at the thought of losing him also, they changed their minds and said they wanted him to be forgiven.
International revulsion at the killing had seen the Pakistani state take the unprecedented step of declaring itself an heir alongside the parents, however, forcing the case to move ahead.
Some of Baloch’s better-known actions included offering to perform a striptease for the Pakistani cricket team, and donning a plunging scarlet dress on Valentine’s Day.
She attracted criticism and threats but was perceived by many, including young people, as breaking new ground in a country where presenting yourself as a Kim Kardashian-like figure can be seen as a bold, political act of women’s empowerment.
The roots of “honour” killings lie in tribal social norms, which remain prevalent across South Asia and dictate the behaviour of women in particular, though men can be victims too.